The Maze (John Corey #8), by Nelson DeMille

Nine stars

Nelson’s DeMille brings his politically incorrect protagonist, John Corey, back for another adventure that is sure to get the heart pumping. Having seen it all during his time with the NYPD and Feds, Corey is happy to relax in rural New York, but that is sidelined when he is pulled into an undercover operation like no other. Corey brings his specific skill set and ‘fear nothing’ attitude to the case, while trying to keep his zipper up and eyes off the ladies. DeMille masters the storytelling once more and proves that he’s still got the spark needed to impress readers.

While still the target of many Russian and Islamic terrorists, John Corey tries to use time at his uncle’s rural New York cabin for some much needed R&R. However, others did not get the memo, so when Corey’s former colleague and lover, Beth Penrose, shows up, there is sure to be something work-related to this. Penrose talks about wanting Corey to take a job with a local security firm, Security Solutions, hoping that it will help him transition to his next set of life skills. Corey, who is still trying to make his way through the minefield that has been work with the NYPD, FBI, and CIA, is not so sure. Still, a pretty face and a willingness to rekindle a past flame has him listening.

What begins as an apparent new job soon turns into something much more complex. It would seem that this security firm could be involved in something much more disturbing. One of the past private investigators who asked too many questions appeared to commit suicide, though speculation lingers that she could have been murdered for what she knew. A case of nine unsolved murders on Fire Island appears to be at the core of the matter, where sex workers’ bodies have been found and no one has yet been fingered as the serial killer. Could Security Solutions be the key to discovering who has been doing it, or at least leave a trail of corrupt breadcrumbs in the cover-up?

While Corey digs deeper at his own pace, he meanders through the plethora of women, corrupt acts, and scintillating discoveries to see if Security Solutions has been protecting a killer or at least killing those who get too close to the truth. With Corey working alongside Beth Penrose once more, both can only hope that this will be something that helps crack a case wide open, if not bring them closer together. Still, John Corey is not the most chivalrous man, always willing to bend the rules to his favour and to pave the way to sexual conquering. How will it all work out? Nelson DeMille shows just how stellar his writing can be with this piece and an addition to this must-read series, all eats for those with an open mind to Corey’s salty delivery.

I cannot remember when I first began reading Nelson DeMille’s novels, but I know John Corey has been a favourite series of mine since first I discovered his filterless delivery. DeMille has all the needed ingredients to make his thrillers both enticing and full of dry wit, things I appreciate when reading (or listening) to books. The stories are always on point and full of detail that proves DeMille uses a great deal of research to create these gems. He is also well-versed in the lingo to leave the reader feeling as though they are part of the action throughout the process. While some may cringe at the rawness of Corey’s comments, the realism that emanates from the text makes them all the more enjoyable today. I cannot wait to see if John Corey will be back soon, in another adventure where his zipper leads the way!

A strong narrative succeeds when a book is able to capture my attention, something with which Nelson DeMille has never struggled. The pace of the book, while it would seem slow because the true ‘crime’ element did not enter into almost halfway through, is perfect and the detail discussed proved essential to better understanding all the working elements. DeMille brings John Corey back, alongside some familiar faces, as well as a great deal of new characters, to keep the story lively. These characters all add their own perspectives to the larger story and enrich the experience for the reader. Plots develop as quickly as John Corey’s libidinous thought processes, keeping the reader entertained and chuckling throughout. While the book is aptly titled for many reasons, the reader will see the plots can be a maze until the final reveal puts it all together. I cannot say enough about Nelson DeMille or this book, hoping that others share my positive sentiments and this keeps John Corey alive for at least a few more novels.

Kudos, Mr. DeMille, for another great novel that had me laughing throughout. What’s next for your adoring fans?

The Deserter (Scott Brodie and Maggie Taylor #1), by Nelson DeMille and Alex DeMille

Eight stars

In this debut father-son collaboration, Nelson and Alex DeMille present a novel that takes the reader into the depths of South America on the hunt for a renegade army officer. While serving in Afghanistan, Captain Kyle Mercer is captured by the Taliban and paraded before the cameras, only to slip out of their grasp and disappear entirely. His desertion is made clear, though he refuses to elaborate and remains on the lam. Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) receives a substantial lead and decides to send two of its own, Scott Brodie and Maggie Taylor, out to capture Mercer and bring him back to face court martial. It would appear that Mercer was last seen in the seediest part of Caracas, capital of the increasingly unstable Venezuela. Brodie and Taylor prepare for their mission, knowing little about one another, but keen to bring Mercer to justice. When they arrive, both CID agents use a cover story to allow them the chance to investigate a little further, though this will mean bending all sense of reality, as they enter brothels of the worst kind. While Brodie is keen to crack a joke at every turn, Taylor cannot stomach the depravity that is presented to them, hoping to locate Mercer and depart swiftly. When one of the prostitutes tells a detailed story of Mercer having left the city for a jungle camp, Brodie and Taylor must prepare for new adventures, learning also about a ‘Flagstaff’ mission, which might be key to the desertion. They are also made aware of a competing American group seeking Mercer’s head, though they will likely kill him and ask questions later. Armed with little more than a flimsy cover story, Brodie and Taylor must locate and capture Mercer without him finding out, which is sure to be harder than it seems. A great joint effort that pushes the DeMilles to the edge of their capabilities as they pen a great thriller peppered with off-hand humour. Recommended to those who have long loved the elder DeMille’s dry wit and detailed stories, as well as the reader looking for something set in a newer locale with great description.

I have seen readers all over the map with this piece, so I was slightly apprehensive about wanting to tackle it. Knowing the caliber of Nelson DeMille’s writing, I could only hope that Alex would be able to keep pace and help create a stellar piece of fiction. I did not feel let down and wonder if the harsh critics were perhaps too wrapped up with some DeMille perfection that they did not permit new approaches to thriller writing. Scott Brodie is the usual DeMille protagonist, whose love of his job is balanced out with the need to crack a joke while plotting how to get inside a woman’s pants. Brodie offers much to the story, lightening the mood when needed, but also keeping the reader on their toes with his antics and leadership qualities. There are some breadcrumbs of a past where Brodie was reprimanded or at least criticized for his machismo, but he is also focussed on the job at hand, including how to get out of tricky situations. Maggie Taylor is still coming into her own throughout this piece. A soldier turned CID, she is used to taking orders, but not necessarily handling the brashness of someone akin to Brodie. Eager to please, she has her limits and will not simply let her superior toss her into danger without challenging the decisions. She’s also privy to much, including the aforementioned Flagstaff background, which could come in handy for her and the larger mission, should she tell what she knows. Others provide both humour and action throughout this piece, providing the reader with some entertainment value, as well as a few chills, depending on the point of the story. The premise of this piece is strong, taking the reader out of their usual reading haunts and into Venezuela. A great deal of research surely went into creating this setting and ensuring that at least most of it was plausible. The DeMilles keep the story clipping along, even though it is a long novel, with numerous tangents that serve to enrich the hunt for Kyle Mercer. I was eager to learn that there is more to come, both with the Brodie-Taylor team and collaboration between Nelson and Alex DeMille. This is a new series in the making that has the building blocks for success.

Kudos, Messrs. DeMille, for a great joint debut. I loved the humour, the education, and the entertainment you provided me. Don’t let the critics get you down.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Cuban Affair, by Nelson DeMille

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Nelson DeMille, and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.
Returning with another novel full of political commentary and a slice of dry wit, Nelson DeMille shows how he has long been a master storyteller with yet another sensational novel. Daniel ‘Mac’ MacCormick enjoys the quiet life in Key West, Florida. Having traded in his military life for that of a charter boat captain, he is able to enjoy the calm breeze and only a few arrogant customers at a time. When he is approached with an offer to sail a group down to Cuba, the idea does not much appeal to him. Up the ante to over a million dollars for his troubles and he is in. With the Cuban Thaw, Americans are slowly becoming accepted in the country, but this mission is anything but an advance team for the party planners during the welcoming fiesta. Instead, Mac will work with Cuban American Sara Ortega to secure a vast sum of cash and valuables left by her banker grandfather before the Cuban Revolution. These vast riches are currently stashed away in a cave well away from Havana’s lights. Posing as members of a Yale Travel Group, Mac and Sara arrive in Havana and begin putting their plan into action. Their cover seems secure and a faked holiday romance soon turns completely genuine. However, their Cuban tour guide may be onto them and tips his hand a little too soon. With a general idea of where the money is located and a plan to get it out of the country in the dead of night, all it will take is a timely execution of the plan. Trouble is, they still need to get back to US soil before they are caught by the Cubans. Might this operation bring a renewed diplomatic chill to a relationship that remains precariously uncertain? Full of one-liners and sarcastic banter, DeMille entertains, educates, and enthrals fans with this novel. Recommended to anyone with a great respect for humour in its driest form paired with a story ripped from the headlines.
Nelson DeMille has a style all his own and exemplifies it yet again here. His use of sarcasm and dry wit passes through all protagonists borne of his pen, but it is the delivery and the ease with which the reader can enjoy its inclusion that makes it so accepted. Mac is another wonderful character cut from the same cloth as John Corey. He seeks the simple life and yet seems to find trouble at every turn. He has just the right amount of machismo to lure in the women and leave the men beating their chests in jealousy. Using a military backstory, DeMille is able to not only pull his protagonist into the current situation at hand, but also pull punches as it relates to the two wars that continue to simmer when US boots need not be. Add in a spicy female to offset Mac’s bravado and you have a wonderful pairing. Ortega is an independent woman who wants to do her family proud, but cannot deny the allure of this scarred ship captain. Turning to the story, DeMille weaves a wonderfully realistic story, using some of his research during a trip to the country in 2015 and shows how the Thaw might be welcomed on one side, but not yet fully celebrated in Cuba. Still, it is apparently the State Department that has turned this police state into the untrusting tiny country that has been a thorn in the American backside. Rich with history and descriptions of the countryside, DeMille takes the reader to the streets of rural Cuba and nighttime Havana with his well-crafted narrative. Injecting just the right amount of political commentary, the reader will surely see the Thaw through the eyes of a patriotic American who has witnessed the sentiments on the other side. Whatever Cuba might be to the reader, this is a wonderful story and keeps the action going until the final pages. Witty yet full of social comparisons between the two nations, DeMille delivers a knockout punch.
Kudos, Mr. DeMille for telling this story at a time when many are surely questioning the need for ongoing embargoes and travel restrictions. They may have once been chummy with the Russians, but Cuba poses much less of a threat than the current American Administration.