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The Lion's Game
By Nelson Demille
Read by Boyd Gaines

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The Lion's Game
By Nelson DeMille
Read by Boyd Gaines
Hachette Audio, (2006)
An Abridged Recording on 8 CDs
ISBN: 1-59483-637-X
Genre: Thriller

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - November 24, 2006

On April 15, 1986, the U.S. bombed Libya in an attempt to kill Moammar Gadhafi in retaliation for the bombing of a Berlin discotheque frequented by American soldiers. This is a fact, the rest of The Lion's Game is fiction. Building from this real event, Nelson DeMille has created a terrifying character in the form of Asad Khalil. Khalil was a young man when the bombing of Libya occurred. His family was killed during the bombing and Khalil vowed revenge. His revenge is years in the making, but when he strikes, it is with a cold, calculating vengeance. Like the lion stalking his prey, Khalil stalks his victim - the U.S.

The story opens quite innocently enough, but the plot quickly thickens. I'd love to tell you what starts all the 'fireworks' but I don't want to destroy your pleasure in discovering the gruesome scenario that DeMille has chosen to open the novel. The body count mounts rapidly in this tightly woven thriller that pits Khalil, who will stop at nothing to obtain the revenge he seeks, against the Anti-Terrorist Task Force (ATTF), whose main job is to prevent terrorists, like Khalil, from succeeding. Working with the ATTF is John Corey, a former NYPD Homicide officer who has been shot so often that he finally takes medical leave and takes up a more relaxing job - as a terrorist hunter. By pure chance, Corey is on the scene when Khalil first strikes, so he is assigned to the team charged with hunting him down. Along with Kate Mayfield, his partner and his boss, he chases Khalil across the country in a mad dash to stop him before he completes his plan for absolute revenge.

Corey is a fascinating character. He is a man who doesn't care whose toes he steps on, but he is so smart and good at his job that everyone pretty much looks the other way. In addition, Corey talks like a hard-boiled detective that got ousted from a Mickey Spillane book for being overly obnoxious. In this audio edition of The Lion's Game, Boyd Gaines, an award winning actor of both stage and screen wonderfully captures Corey's wisecracking and brattish demeanor. In addition his reading of this book ably captures the cadence and nuances of DeMille's flippant writing style, a style that fits perfectly with Corey's character.

While Corey is the 'star' of this novel, it is Khalil who moves the story along. Khalil is perfect as Corey's nemesis. Khalil is as smart at Corey, but where Corey is unconventional, Khalil is serious, dedicated, and willing to sacrifice all to achieve his goals. Khalil is wonderfully believable, his motives are clear and DeMille delineated exactly why Khalil chose the path he did, and why he excels as a terrorist. This story, originally published well before the events of September 11, 2001, also pointed out just how vulnerable the U.S. is to a terrorist attack, and just how ill-prepared we were/are to face the challenges presented by such an attack.

This is fast-paced, hold-your-breath, edge-of-your-seat story that is so intense that you may find yourself listening to it all in one sitting. The Lion's Game has an unexpected ending, one which while it leaves open the possibility of a sequel, does so without leaving you hanging. This is not the first novel that Corey has appeared in. The Lion's Game follows Plum Island, in which many of the characters in this book where originally introduced. Nonetheless, this book is totally self-contained and it can be read independently of Plum Island.

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