Monday, October 15, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: The Panther by Nelson DeMille

     Years ago I read The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille; I wasn't impressed. While an interesting story, I thought it was too long and too slow. Since then, friends have pushed more from DeMille. I resisted. 
     Until now.
     I got my hands on an early copy of DeMille's latest novel, The Panther, released Tuesday October 16, 2012. It is the latest in the John Corey/Kate Mayfield series. The short version of this review: I can't believe I've missed the first five in the series. I have a lot of catching up to do!
     Of course, I've never given the short version of anything, so here is the rest:
     John and Kate are married, both working on the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York City. John is an NYPD Detective, Kate an FBI Special Agent. The story is told from mostly in the first person from the point of view of John, a smart, reflective, witty, pain in the ass. The same qualities that make him a good investigator make him difficult to get along with and even more difficult to supervise. That, of course, makes a great story!
     In The Panther, John and Kate are given an assignment in Yemen: to arrest the terrorist responsible for the attack on the USS Cole. Well, "arrest" might not be the most accurate way to describe what the team is really supposed to do, but that is the official assignment.  They've been specially selected, since the American born and raised Panther would like to "arrest" John and Kate, too, to avenge the death of an al Qaeda terrorist that they were responsible for. The two are working with agents from myriad intelligence agencies on this mission: military, State Department, the CIA. All are hardened and experienced patriots, and all have secret agendas that are slowly revealed throughout the book. 

Nelson DeMille
    The book  includes loyalty, deception, betrayal, murder, and more, and that's just among the good guys!  Despite being over 6o0 pages, it is a page turner, helped along by fast dialogue and the laugh out loud wit of the protagonist. 
     I don't know if was DeMille's intent, but I felt Corey's distrust and cynicism, along with the methods used on their Panther hunt, was a critique on the War on Terror, or at least the way it's being fought.
     The Panther is more about the story than the characters. John Corey is a New York cop, and narrates as one would expect from a New York cop. Although he has depth so far as recognizing the danger of the mission, and that there is a good chance he'll be killed, he isn't complex. He knows what he knows and doesn't seem to worry much about what he doesn't. Even the private moments between John and Kate are light. But the danger of the mission always looms, and even reading from the safety of my home I was tense waiting for the surprise attack, ambush, or explosion that I felt was imminent.    
     The Panther is an excellent book that I'm confident will return Nelson DeMille to the Best Seller list. His other John Corey books are now on my read list, and I've even considered giving The Gold Coast a second read, thinking there must be something I missed! 

DeMille, Nelson. The PantherGrand Central Publishing (October 16, 2012). 
ISBN-13: 978-0446580847

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bouchercon 2012

     The weekend Bouchercon 2012 was held right in my hometown of Cleveland at the Renaissance Hotel. For those who don't know, "Bouchercon is the world mystery convention and has been taking place annually since 1970....It is named for famed mystery critic Anthony Boucher." Because of my real job, or at least the one that provides me with a paycheck, I was able to attend only one day of Bouchercon 2012. It was not only my first Bouchercon, but my first conference or convention of any kind dealing with books. And thanks to my friend Jen from Jen's Book Thoughts, I navigated that day without a hiccup, met a lot of great people in the mystery community, and had a great time. 
Sean Chercover
     The event consists mostly of panel discussions. Each panel has a moderator and several people with an expertise on the topic for discussion. After a brief discussion, the panel takes questions from the audience. I was able to attend two panels. The first was about characters with unusual jobs, including a tattoo artist written by Karen Olson, race car driver by Tammy Kaehler, a nun by Alice Loweecey, and a juvenile delinquent drug dealer and blackmailer by Aric Davis. The second panel was about the unusual research authors do for their books. It included a new likely favorite, Sean Chercover, whom I had a chance to speak with briefly later in the evening, and was moderated by publicist Dana Kaye.
Robin Cook
     After the panel discussions, I saw an interview of medical doctor and New York Times bestselling author Robin Cook, author of dozens of medical thrillers including Coma, Outbreak, and Chromosome 6. The interview was especially interesting to me because part of the discussion turned to the current healthcare debate, combining books and politics!
     There were also several mystery booksellers there, and I was able to get signed first editions of Dennis Lehane's Live by Night and Will Lavender's Dominance
     The evening of the first night included an opening ceremony emceed by John Connolly at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where the Macavity Awards were presented by Janet Rudolph from Mystery Readers International

Michael Connelly
     Perhaps more interesting than the panel discussions, and I'm sure all of the panels I missed, were the people I met at Bouchercon 2012. There were bloggers, reviewers, publishers, agents, editors, and of course authors of all levels of success and experience. I can't speak for everyone, or all the authors there, but I was encouraged to buy several books I never heard of just by meeting and talking briefly with the people I met, such as Ray Daniels, Bill Loehfelm, and Kathleen Ryan, and Aric Davis
Michael Koryta & Jen Forbus
     While that was fun, the biggest thrill was meeting a few authors and people I have read for many years: Michael Koryta, Michael Connelly, Alafair Burke, and Marcia Clark. I was even able to have a a spirited discussion with Koryta and Connelly about the future of the book industry; we were unable to reach a conclusion. I was also finally able to put a face with the wonderful, kind, and helpful Miriam Parker with Mulholland Books!
     I can say without hesitation that everyone I met at Bouchercon was kind, considerate, polite, and very approachable. Thousands of books were signed, pictures taken, and questions asked; I did not see or hear of a negative experience.

     The convention, even just one day of it, was a wonderful experience with wonderful people. Bouchercon 2013 is scheduled for Albany, New York; I hope to be there.