It is a mere year and a half after September 11th, and America has settled into an uneasy routine, still keeping an eye on the alert levels spawned from the attacks of 2001. That is a date that nearly claimed the lives of John Corey and FBI agent Kate Mayfield (now Kate Mayfield Corey). Back then, despite their best efforts, they failed to capture Asad Khalil, and the Libyan managed a clever escape. But before he left, he made a promise to return. And a promise to kill Corey and Mayfield, along with a growing list of others. Well, Corey is looking forward to the confrontation and another chance to take down The Lion. In fact, he has been waiting these many months for just such an opportunity.
Khalil is described as a perfect killing machine, which is partly due to the fact that he fervently believes in his mission. He is driven by hatred, not only for the capitalist infidels, but also for the specific men who wiped out his family in a bombing raid. He doesn’t care about money or comfort. All he focuses on is revenge --- and to secure his place in heaven, for his warped interpretation of what his god wants tells him that those who do not believe as Khalil does are evil and must be killed. It makes sense to him, and he goes forward with his convictions of the righteousness of his deeds. “…he recalled the Roman ruins of Libya --- all that remained of the greatest imperial power the world had ever seen. In the end, he thought, the greatest armies and navies were nothing when the people believed in nothing. The wealth of an empire corrupted the people and their government, and they were no match for a people who believed in something higher than their bellies, and who worshipped God, not gold.”
There’s a twisted sort of logic there that might bear thinking about: Are we straying too far from real values? Khalil has no doubt. At any rate, terrorists seem intent on spilling blood and have no fear of dying as long as they can take out a lot of Americans with them. It means that eternity will be divine for them. America’s borders might be more secure than pre-9/11, but they are not airtight. Someone with the determination of Khalil can still slip in fairly easily, and no one will know he is here until he strikes. And then it will be too late, at least for some.
Corey and Mayfield have no warning that The Lion is back, right up to the instant that he attacks --- and he does so in a very spectacular fashion. He has a plan, this man. He is methodical, vicious and deadly. To date, his record is perfect. Once he targets someone, he or she dies. Naturally, though, Corey has his own plan, one that involves the death of Khalil. This time, one of them will die when they next meet.
But even if Corey can kill The Lion, will that be enough? It has begun to dawn on him that Khalil must have local help --- lots of it --- and excellent backing. Could it be al Qaeda? If so, he knows they’re not doing it gratis. Khalil will owe them big time, which means a huge finale after the finale of Corey and Mayfield’s murders.
Nelson DeMille really delivers with this eagerly awaited follow-up to THE LION’S GAME, which might be his best page-turner to date. John Corey thoroughly satisfies and is as irreverent as ever, shooting quick comebacks more often than he shoots his gun. But the story itself should scare the smile right off your face. These people mean business, and despite Corey’s renegade nature, we need men like him. Actually, we need armies like him. THE LION is not only fun, it is also essential reading.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on December 30, 2010