By Nelson DeMille
Grand Central Publishing
List Price: $27.99; Amazon Price: $15.11
[Editor’s Note: Review first appeared in Dan’s Papers on June 17, 2010]
Anti-Terrorist Task Force officer and former NYPD detective John Corey is back in full force in Nelson DeMille’s latest release, The Lion-a sequel to the author’s 2000 blockbuster, The Lion’s Gate. The Lion essentially picks up the storyline three years later when the Libyan assassin Asad Kahlil, otherwise known as “The Lion,” disappeared. Before vanishing into thin air, Khalil promised to return one day and kill Corey and his new bride, FBI agent Kate Mayfield.
Like all psychopathic assassins, when Khalil makes his threats, people listen. So it’s not much of a surprise when he makes his way back to the United States and is hell-bent on killing the people he missed the first time around. The reason for the first murderous spree had to do with the Libyan bombing of Qaddafi’s compound back in 1986 in which Khalil’s entire family was killed. So it’s payback time and The Lion manages to avenge his mother, brothers and sisters by murdering each of the pilots who flew on the bombing mission, but he fails at one attempt, thanks to Corey and Mayfield’s intervention. Foiled by the two ATTF agents, Khalil promises revenge sometime down the road.
The Lion is character-driven and told from two points of view-Corey’s and Khalil’s. The story opens with Corey following an Iranian diplomat to Atlantic City during a routine surveillance tracking, setting the premise that Corey is still with the ATTF. In spite of his feelings for the FBI and the CIA, he’s happily married to Mayfield and everything is business as usual in early post-9/11 New York City. What he doesn’t know is that Khalil has returned and has already made two of his first kills in California-business as usual for the vindictive Libyan, who has finally made good on getting that last bomber pilot.
The story skips along nicely, with Corey and Mayfield sharing a life of catching bad guys and dealing with Homeland Security bureaucracy along with the typical trials and tribulations of married life. Mayfield, who enjoys dangerous extracurricular activities, convinces Corey to go upstate for a relaxing weekend of sky diving. And that’s when the fun begins. It’s an activity that makes Corey a little unsure but he goes along with it to please his bride (they have a quid pro quo sexual arrangement). DeMille implies early on that something will go awry with the jump. Sure enough, that sneaky terrorist has learned of the weekend getaway and has a dramatic first strike planned for Mr. and Mrs. Corey.
Readers who like this sort of quasi James Bond action will be thrilled about how the attack is pulled off. Khalil piggy-backs on Mayfield 14,000 feet in the air and struggles to kill her while Corey watches and tries to stop the terrorist from murdering his wife. The attempt backfires, but Mayfield is critically injured with a stab wound to the neck, but with some crazy parachute maneuvering Corey gets himself and Mayfield back on the ground.
As improbable as the scene may seem, it’s fun to picture and DeMille never lets up in the pacing. Once Mayfield is in the hospital, the question is whether she’ll survive and what will Corey, known to follow the beat of his own drum, do on his own to trap Khalil and put an end to the terror.
Anyone who likes police procedurals will enjoy the interactions between the FBI, CIA, and even a former KGB agent. However, for those who tend to be politically correct, Corey’s derogatory references to people of Middle-Eastern heritage along with the constant sarcastic banter and ruminations tend to get tiring. In spite of these irksome character traits, Corey is a compassionate and very likeable character when he acts like a smart cop, coming up with ways to outsmart a wily, well-informed and organized killer. As political thrillers go, DeMille tucks in enough twists and turns to keep readers wanting to know what will happen next. Sections of the story are somewhat predictable, but overall The Lion is a fast-moving and highly entertaining cat and mouse game