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20 October 2012

Nelson DeMille: The Panther

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Top class, intelligent, realistic and amusing terrorist thriller
This is one of the most intelligent, realistic and surprisingly amusing terrorist thrillers I have read this year. I have been a fan Nelson DeMille's books for a long time and "The Panther" will be one of the more memorable of his books. It also marks the return of Paul Brenner, well known to many of you as the investigator in "The General's Daughter. Brenner and Corey make a formidable combination.

In "The Lion" John Corey, former NYPD Homicide detective and special agent for the Anti-Terrorist Task Force, with the help of his partner and wife Kate Mayfield, killed 'The Lion', a notorious Libyan terrorist. They also stopped a plot by rogue elements in the CIA for a nuclear Armageddon of Muslim countries. Because of their success with the Lion, Corey and Kate are asked by the ATTF to become bait for "The Panther", a feared and brutal al-Qaeda terrorist leader in Yemen. What is realistically scary is that The Panther is a second generation, well educated and very intelligent American citizen of migrant Islamic parents, who becomes a terrorist when he is dismayed with the differences between Western and fundamentalist Islamic values. What is even more scary to Corey and Kate is that they find that the project is masterminded by the CIA.

Some people might find Corey's observations and inimitable humour irrelevant and annoying, but I love them as it helps to take the strain off what could otherwise be pretty tough reading. Corey is at his best and most amusing in this book:

1. Shit happens but in Yemen it happens hard. In Yemen even the good guys are bad.
2. The Yemenis have the highest birth rate of any Arab country ..... so something was happening when the veils came off.
3. "Zamo is also a martial arts expert."  "You draw soldiers?"
4. "Where's Mohammed?" "Getting fitted for a suicide belt."
5. "How is he?"  "Bullet passed through his brain. No damage."

For thriller fans this book has a bit of everything - blackmail, corruption, kidnapping, assassination, bombs, gun-fights, drones and hellfire missiles, all laced with large doses of double and triple-crossing. The book is mostly set, very realistically, in Yemen, one of the most remote and undeveloped third world countries. DeMille's well researched descriptions of Yemen are memorable and it is easy to see why al-Qaeda can have a refuge and strongholds in this country and similar ones in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. Many years ago I visited Aden on a passenger liner and even with such a short visit I agree with Corey that "If the earth had an anus it would be located in Yemen".

I gave the book 4.5 stars (marked down because it was a bit lengthy and slow in the early stages) but rounded it to 5 stars because it really was a good read.

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