'The Panther' Review: DeMille's Taut Terrorism Yarn Takes Reader into Heart of Yemen

'The Panther' Review: DeMille's Taut Terrorism Yarn Takes Reader into Heart of Yemen

There’s a reason why readers clamor for author Nelson DeMille’s John Corey. The anti-terror warrior gets the job done, ignores political correctness and never makes excuses for protecting his fellow Americans.

In “The Panther,” DeMille’s sixth John Corey adventure, our hero is deposited in arguably the United States’ most chaotic ally in the War on Terror – Yemen.

John may be out of his comfort zone – Manhattan – but his signature wit and take-no-prisoners plans haven’t changed a wit. Credit DeMiller for finding renewed enthusiasm for the wise-cracking crime fighter, as well as depicting the War on Terror with frightening clarity.

John and his lovely bride, Kate, accept a daunting task in “The Panther.” They will travel to Yemen to capture one of Al Qaeda’s most notorious members. Dubbed The Panther, the terrorist was born and raised in America but now delights in spilling the blood of the infidels. He also played a role in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, and John and Kate are willing to put their lives on the line to bring him to justice.

It won’t be easy.

Yemen might be the most dangerous territory to track a killer. The government insists it’s on our side, but loyalty is often measured by bribes, not diplomatic niceties. Tribal conflicts have rendered the terrain extraordinarily unsafe, and even as John and Kate travel under the protection of U.S.-guided Predator drones there’s virtually no guarantee of safety.

DeMille tells the bulk of the story from John’s perspective, meaning we get both real-time revelations, rip-roaring jokes and lines even John feels the need to hold back. The author’s hit-to-miss ratio on the humor is solid, but DeMille doesn’t let him hold the story aloft on his own. He surrounds John and Kate with plenty of memorable characters. Paul Brenner, featured in DeMille’s “The General’s Daughter” and “Up Country,” joins the married couple along with a slightly unhinged CIA agent named Chet.

Together, the small team of U.S. agents try snaring The Panther in a web to be incinerated by a Hellfire missile. Setting the trap won’t be easy, and John’s suspicions about the mission add texture and realism to what could have been a rah-rah terrorist hunt.

DeMille isn’t kind to Yemen, but he isn’t willing to sugar coat the methods U.S. officials take to wipe out terrorist cells. The author also grants some of the Yemeni citizens their humanity, a people forever fighting wars as if they couldn’t even imagine what tranquility might feel like.

“The Panther” moves swiftly despite its bulk (625 pages), and DeMille’s zeal for the intricacies of the spy business continue to impress. A few less chapters, each of which ends with a tease to the following page, wouldn’t have hurt the story line, characters or momentum at all.

That hardly matters in the final chapters, interludes where DeMille’s knack for wrapping a story in the most ferocious manner possible flares up anew.

“The Panther” will be cheered by conservative readers who long ago pushed aside thoughts of terrorism’s “root causes” and other limp explanations. John and Kate are on the case, and even if they have lawyers and rules to follow you just know John will ignore them when the time is just right.