Published by Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: October 16th 2012
Just when you thought it might not happen, John Corey, in all his irascible, ornery, and often spot-on political incorrectness, returns. And this time he’s the hunter…or is he? After an absence of two years Nelson DeMille brings Corey back to wrap-up the story that began in The Lion’s Game and continued in The Lion.There, Corey kills a Middle Eastern terrorist, who, though not a member of Al-Qaeda, is working with them to systematically eliminate victims on U.S. soil. Now, there is a new Muslim extremist whose intel is muddled by the fact that he’s American born, raised, and educated. Bulus al-Darwish left the country to return to his parents’ homeland, Yemen, and it is widely believed to be responsible for the USS Cole bombing in the Gulf of Aden in 2000. Like The Lion, he’s chosen to go by another big cat moniker, and is known as The Panther.
Despite having been involved in the initial investigation into the USS Cole incident (or perhaps because of it) Corey has zero interest in returning to Yemen, a country he refers to as a “hell on earth”. His concerns are heightened because his wife, Kate Mayfield, an FBI Special Agent and lawyer, is assigned to go as well. Neither is given very many details about their mission, but ostensibly, they are going as part of a team to apprehend The Panther, as the mastermind of the bombing. Kate’s role is to ensure that legal protocol is followed, as despite his terrorist activities, The Panther is an American citizen and must be captured and returned to the U.S. for a proper trial, as opposed to the more immediate and final justice Corey believes he deserves (“Can we at least torture him? Just a little?).
In Yemen, Kate and John are joined by the rest of their team: a former Vietnam vet, Paul Brenner, who now works for the Diplomatic Security Service; a State Department Intelligence officer, Buck Harris; and a CIA operative, Chet Morgan. DeMille stays true to Corey’s form and his internal dialogue and perceptions of each of these men and the situation is infinitely more interesting than anything that gets said out loud. By the time everyone has assembled in Yemen, it is clear that Corey’s involvement has little to do with his initial experience with the Cole bombing. Instead, it is the fact that he killed Asad Khalil (The Lion), and is on an Al-Qaeda assassination list. He is not the hunter but is, instead, the bait that everyone hopes will lure The Panther into the open.
The Panther leads the reader into the desolate and chaotic environment in the Middle East, and, in particular, Yemen, a country that has been at war with itself or occupiers for the last thousand years. As the poorest and least developed country in the Arab world it is well-known for its corrupt government and as a breeding ground for terrorists, for whom the warring Bedouin tribes provide good cover for their activities. It soon becomes clear that no one can be trusted and that lying and double dealing are national pastimes. Those in the local government, tribal leaders, even bellhops and waiters are all informants serving different masters for whatever money they can get.
The Yemen regime is broken. They’re the walking dead. If Al-Qaeda wins, they control Sana’a, and the Saudis will find that intolerable, and the Saudis with American military help, will unite the tribes and get rid of Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
Add to this, Corey’s instinctive NYPD distrust of all things involving the Feds, and his antenna are tuned to a pitch heard only by dogs. He has no reason to believe that anyone, with the exception of his wife, has his best interests at heart and, in the case of the CIA, his wife may be a target as well, for killing a CIA operative in a foiled plot to nuke the Middle East (Wild Fire). DeMille does a marvelous job creating this world of characters, shifting alliances, hidden motivations, and unknowable intentions.
At 625 pages The Panther’s ability to hold a reader’s attention is due solely to DeMille’s expertise in not only constructing a believable environment but to do so while keeping the plot moving at a pace both maddeningly slow, when dealing with government, and breakneck fast for the rest of the action. By page 500, the paranoia and tension are ratcheted to such a level that readers will find themselves glancing out the window to make sure they’re not surrounded by enemy forces. Whether you are a conspiracy theorist looking to indulge your worst fears about the world around us or just a reader who appreciates a ration of wit and intelligence mixed with their intrigue, The Panther delivers an exhilarating ride.