In the years since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an airplane over fields in Pennsylvania, Americans have come to hear the name al Qaeda; learned more than they ever wanted to know about Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and a fairly obscure country called Yemen; and become familiar with words like jihad. Even before that, in 2000, the USS Cole was attacked in Aden Harbor during a routine refueling, costing 17 sailors their lives and leaving more than three dozen others injured.
John Corey, formerly of the NYPD, now works with the Anti-Terrorism Task Force, along with his wife, Kate Mayfield, of the FBI. They are offered a new assignment, this one in Yemen. Few people would jump at the chance to go into such remarkably dangerous territory, and John and Kate are no different. But the reward would be their continued service in the city of their choice (New York) and an opportunity to avoid relocation for Kate. The bigger reward is the capture (or otherwise) of a leading terrorist, Bulus al-Darwish, aka The Panther. Al-Darwish is particularly hated because he is American-born, from Perth Amboy.
"With Nelson DeMille’s wicked wit, THE PANTHER ticks all the boxes of another bestseller. The characters are razor sharp, true to life, scary, amoral and occasionally naïve. And endlessly entertaining."
The downside is that John and Kate are two names on al Qaeda’s kill list. They achieved that honor by killing The Lion, another odious assassin from the Middle East.
The plan is simple. Well, not really, because the CIA is in charge and they overthink everything. But John and Kate will only need to commit to one year’s service in Yemen to carry out their mission. That could be considerably shortened, though. The quicker, the better; they come home when The Panther is neutralized. And there is a team awaiting them in Yemen to help them succeed. Well, maybe not all of them are strictly rooting for the Coreys’ success.
“…this was the Middle East. The land of the mirage, the shimmering pond in the sand that drew you farther into the deadly desert, and when you arrived at the lifesaving water, it disappeared, and you discovered the bones of those who’d been there before you. You discovered death.”
They are assured that they are perfect for this job, but realize early on that “perfect for the job” means they will be a lure for the al Qaeda killers. Bait, in other words. In addition to wondering what their own people are keeping from them, they have to worry about the Yemeni police, who may or may not be on their side --- depending on how they feel on a certain day, or whether they have changed their minds about their previously expressed position. And if the people weren’t impediment enough, there’s the forbidding terrain to consider. Hot, dusty, parched and full of many places for a great ambush, which happens frequently. Besides, everyone carries a gun, so who can tell the good guys from the bad? As you might guess, little goes according to plan. Still…
With Nelson DeMille’s wicked wit, THE PANTHER ticks all the boxes of another bestseller. The characters are razor sharp, true to life, scary, amoral and occasionally naïve. And endlessly entertaining. But there is no stopping John Corey once he sets his sights on a goal. He may get hurt in the process, but even death doesn’t deter him. As he says, he and the other people who go out to do this job are following a calling. They know it’s dangerous, often deadly, but that just doesn’t matter. A huge bonus is that DeMille’s readers get the benefit of a highly enjoyable geography lesson with a side of history to boot.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on October 19, 2012