by Nelson Demille
Reviewed by Rick McMahan
(Originally reviewed September, 1997)
When I first started reading Nelson Demille over a decade ago, his books were political intrigue and thrillers like CATHEDRAL and BY THE RIVERS OF THE BABYLON. However, with THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER he showed he is a masterful mystery writer with the creation of his veteran Army CID agent Paul Brenner.
Ever since I read the tale of CID agents investigating the murder of a female Army Captain on a remote Georgia base, I have hoped Demille would stay with the mystery genre. To be honest, I was hoping he’d write a sequel with the Paul Brenner character. He didn’t. Instead what Nelson Demille did was write another masterful novel titled PLUM ISLAND.
The hero of PLUM ISLAND is John Corey, an NYPD Homicide Detective who’s laid up on the North Fork of Long Island recovering from being "shot while on the job," as they say in the NYPD. Corey is relaxing on his uncle’s farm when the local police chief asks Corey to help on a double homicide investigation involving two of Corey’s friends, Tom and Judy Gordon. The Gordons worked at the animal research center, Plum Island, which lies off the North end of Long Island. It is a restricted area clouded in secrecy.
They claimed to only be working on animal disease research, but there are hints that more wicked things are done at Plum Island -- like biological warfare research. When the FBI and CIA come on to the scene, everyone begins to think that the victims were killed by foreign agents. John Corey soon feels he can trust only one person -- a local cop who wants to solve the murders not play politics.
If I were to tell you any more it would be criminal on my part.
Nelson Demille has a gift for dialogue. He brings out the characters through their verbal sparring. He is able to strike a perfect balance of humor and believability -- to make the wisecracking, and politically incorrect, Corey’s tough-guy talk come to life. Corey is a hero for the 90’s -- with his own voice -- instead of coming across as modern-day, hackneyed copy of Raymond Chandler's or Dashell Hammett’s tough guys.
As a final aside, for all fans of Nelson Demille, after reading PLUM ISLAND, rent or check out at your local library, the book on tape of PLUM ISLAND. The audio tape version is abridged and you lose some of Demille’s excellent writing, so I don’t recommend listening to it to get the full impact of PLUM ISLAND, but what is very worthwhile is to hear the interview of Nelson Demille which is at the end of the tape.
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