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14 February 2013

Nelson DeMille: Plum Island (John Corey)

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From time to time I revisit an early book in some of my favourite series to see how they have stood the test of time. Plum Island is an early book in Nelson Demille's John Corey series and when it was released it knocked John Grisham off the top of the US bestseller lists and held the no.1 spot for five weeks. I have just read and enjoyed "The Panther", the latest John Corey adventure and wanted to see how the character had evolved over time.

In "Plum Island" Corey is still a NYPD homicide detective and is staying at his Uncle's beachside house on Long Island recovering from three, almost fatal, gunshots in the course of duty. His neighbours, Tom and Judy Gordon, biologists who worked on Plum Island, the site of animal disease research for the Department of Agriculture, are murdered and Corey is hired by the local police to consult on the murder investigation. A smart and attractive detective Beth Penrose leads the team.

Inevitably the investigations focus first on the possibility that the Gordon's were involved in selling viruses or vaccines to terrorists. The investigation team gets packed with FBI and CIA agents tripping over themselves to prevent a life-threatening tragedy.

Corey quickly dismisses the Plum Island disease connection and works on his own to look at unusual things in the Gordon's lifestyle which is well overspent. They have a rarely used but very expensive speed boat with a missing ice-chest, and recently purchased an isolated block of land on the beach-side that can't be developed. He also looks at their membership of a local historical society and meets and is instantly attracted to the president of the society, Emma Whitestone.

Corey is still full of smart alec wisecracks, but IMHO they are better in "The Panther" as he matures. Most people are disarmed and annoyed by his attitude which makes him look a bit idiotic - but it really is a technique to keep people off balance so they don't realise how smart he really is.

I enjoyed revisiting this early Demille which has an interesting and somewhat unusual plot. The characters are well crafted, and the plot moves around and around, finishing with an exciting but somewhat unbelievable boat chase.

On balance I enjoyed "The Panther" slightly better which I gave 5 stars. This earlier book is a good read, but slightly lengthy and the plot is a bit unbelievable so I gave it 4 stars.

My favourite Demille book is still "Word of Honor", which IMHO is one of the best novels about the Vietnam war.


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