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The Lion's Game
By Nelson DeMille

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The Lion's Game
By Nelson DeMille
Thorndike Press - Large Print, (2000)
ISBN: 0-7862-2020-1
Genre: Thriller

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - July 29, 2001

On April 15th 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 is 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 this 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. Among those 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. As Kate describes him in the book, Corey is insensitive, loutish, self-centered, egoistical, rude and sarcastic. Nonetheless, you cannot help loving him! He talks like a hard-boiled detective that got ousted from a Mickey Spillane book for being overly obnoxious. At times he talks like a wisecracking, snotnosed brat, and this can be a bit disconcerting. Once you get use to this, you can get into the flow of DeMille's flippant style of writing, a style that fits perfectly with Corey's characters. Basically, Corey 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.

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 also points out just how vulnerable the U.S. is to a terrorist attack, and just how ill-prepared we may be to face the challenges presented by such an attack. The book jumps back and forth between Corey and Khalil, presenting the story from both perspectives. This can be a tricky plotting ploy, but DeMille carries it off with finesse, allowing the reader to tag along with both the hunter and the hunted.

This is a long book, but so fast paced and edge-of-your-seat breathless that you may find yourself reading it all in one sitting. It has an unexpected ending, one which leaves open the possibility of a sequel 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 independent of Plum Island, or as its sequel.


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