John Corey—Nelson DeMille’s smart-ass, wise-cracking, ex-cop turned Anti-Terrorist Task Force agent—is one of my all-time favorite fictional action heroes. From the first time I met him in Plum Island, I knew that Corey had everything I look for: courage, fallibility and (most importantly) a sarcastic sense of humor. I’ve followed Corey’s exploits through all six of his books. By this point, I know what to expect: a fast-paced thrill ride focused on some type of government cover-up or terrorist activity. So I was thrilled when I saw The Panther featured not just John Corey but also Paul Brenner (who made appearances in two other DeMille books, The General’s Daughter and Up Country). What a kick to see two of DeMille’s fictional creations go mano-a-mano!
The plot, as usual, is very topical. Corey and his wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield, are sent to Yemen to track down an Al Qaeda leader named The Panther, who is believed to be the mastermind behind the USS Cole bombing. The Yemen setting is a huge part of the book, and DeMille obviously did his homework. The week after I finished the book, Time magazine had a story on Yemen that touched on many of the things mentioned in the book—including the pervasiveness of khat, the political situation, the landscape and Al Qaeda’s presence. It was like seeing the book come to life.
The book is essentially your basic “cat and mouse” story. This is both a help and a hindrance. On the plus side, DeMille ratchets up the tension by keeping Corey on the perpetual edge of death in one of the most dangerous countries in the Middle East. On the con side, a cat and mouse story ends when the cat gets the mouse (or vice versa) so there was certain amount of repetitiveness and stalling as we waited for our two adversaries to finally meet. DeMille throws in plenty of other machinations (you just never know who to trust … including Corey), but I began to feel like things got a bit repetitive. The saving grace, as always, is Corey himself. With a constant stream of sarcasm and smart-assery flowing from his mouth, you’re never bored with Corey along. (Though I imagine he would be a pain in real life.) Still, I felt this book stalled out in the middle as we waited for the denouement.
All that being said, I enjoyed the book and will continue reading Corey books as long DeMille wants to write them. If you’re new to John Corey, I suggest starting from the beginning (Plum Island) and working your way through the rest. The series is always engaging and humorous—though you might find yourself turning into a bit of a conspiracy theorist. If you’re already a Corey fan, know that this isn’t the strongest Corey book but our guy is still his wonderful sarcastic self.