Generally, I’m not a fan of political thrillers. You say to me, “Carol, here’s a political thriller I just know you will love…” and I will not be rushing to the library or my favorite dealer to get a copy. Frankly, I find most of them silly and poorly written. Government conspiracies? Puh-leaze.
At any rate, this one popped up in discussion and due to enthusiasm from Sharon and recommendations from Alfred (and others, I think–I lost the thread), Sharon and I decided to give it the buddy read treatment.
Probably not, because I’m completely one of those people that talks while reading. Or updates. Or tends to drop spoilers. Or really, really wants to share quotes. Warning: I generally don’t spoil the ultimate solution, but everything else is fodder for my failing memory.
At any rate, John Corey is a rather typical, maverick cop, an ex- NYPD detective who now works with the FBI on part of a dedicated terrorist task force with his wife, a FBI agent herself. Like all great detectives, she has a case that haunts her with its lack of resolution. She persuades John to go with her to the memorial for TWA Flight 800, a Paris-bound airline that broke apart due to ‘mechanical failure,’ killing everyone on board. At the memorial, a CIA agent that John has a highly antagonistic relationship with warns John to let the case be.
John finds himself playing devil’s advocate as Kate gradually takes him through the details of the case, but when they get to an unshakable eye-witness who swears he saw what seemed to be a missile, even John feels niggling doubts. He knows he has to work fast to make progress before he is shut down by his superiors. DeMille is clever with pacing in this book. It begins with a lurid sex scene hinting at potential video tape, and then moves into detailed background building of the investigation of a crashed plane. It could have easily been boring, but I was quickly engrossed in the details, and I enjoyed the complex motivation of justice, stubbornness and independence that keeps John on the case.
“But it wasn’t about Kate or me, or anyone else, in or out of the government. It was about them. 230 of them. And their families and loved ones, the people who had placed roses on the seats of the aircraft, and who had lit the candles and waded into the ocean, and thrown the flowers into the sea. And the people who haven’t been at the service, who sat at home tonight and cried.”
John uses old contacts in the NYPD to do some investigating, and doggedly tracks the pieces leading to the potential videotape. There was a very police procedural aspect to it; it felt real, somewhat slowly methodical, and somewhat maddening as John runs into leads seemingly dead-ended by… someone. Meanwhile, superiors at the Task Force are bringing pressure to bear and threatening both him and Kate. It morphs into a thriller, leading me to turn pages faster and faster by the end.
I enjoyed the characterization. I found John to be rather typical of the maverick detective school; the one who is willing to flaunt authority, but because of his amazing skill remains useful and not completely ostracized. He is, of course, very attractive to the ladies, but avoids further entanglements due to his commitment to Kate. Kate was an interesting foil whose lingering compassion for the loved ones sets off an investigation she is ambivalent about. Although never really fleshed out well, we get a sense that John both loves and respects her, despite occasionally antagonistic behaviors. In fact, they felt like a real couple. I immediately wanted to read more books with him and thought of starting with the first, Plum Island, but basically heard he was exponentially more of a chauvinist (or the writing was) in that one, so it’s a pass until I need a rant-read.
Plotting was solid, with a couple of quirks that will linger.
MILD SPOILER: at one point, Kate and John are sent on separate missions overseas for the Task Force. It seemed an odd authorial transition, but was most likely an attempt to bring in more question of international terrorist cell involvement. The section was generally underwritten, and didn’t seem to add much to the story, although John did lose the beer weight he was carrying.
VERY MILD SPOILER: I ended up reading faster and faster, but it was the end that was pretty much a solid punch in the face.
I looked a lot like Crowley at the end, without the cuts
Let’s just say that thanks to Tana French, I know how to take a punch. It was appropriate, but I can appreciate it pissed some readers off.
Overall, a super-engrossing read. Perfect for a sick day with a head cold, where I was completely taken out of my own physical tissue-wasting experience and not thrown back into reality by hack writing. I’ll check out more DeMille.