John Corey is the most wonderful serial character I’ve encountered in contemporary novels. Corey is a former NYPD detective – shot thrice and retired early on partial disability – who joins the Anti-Terrorism Task Force, which is Nelson DeMille’s fictionalized but impeccably researched version of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Corey fights crime and international terror plots and has a wonderful time, in his entertaining, amusing, idiosyncratic way. Anyone who has a tendency to bend rules and get into trouble on a more or less continual basis will quickly grow fond.
Radiant Angel is the seventh – and may be the last – novel in this series. DeMille has been deliberately ambiguous about whether Corey will ride again. I believe that he will, because it’s unlikely DeMille will be satisfied with his latest effort. It is very good and extremely exciting. But it does not have the effortless effervescence of the best Corey books. Corey’s humor – the staple of his personality – is a little more strained and less successful than usual. The plot is inventive and genuinely worrying. But it is not as thorough or involved as it could be. The novel itself is only about half the length of the previous Corey book, and suggests the author’s enthusiasm for his longest-lived and most lovable character is waning.
Of the Corey series, the three that deal most imaginatively and viscerally with Islamic terrorism – The Lion’s Game (2000), The Lion (2010) and The Panther (2012) – are the best. By which I mean to say the old saw about not being able to put down the book is literally true. DeMille at his best is as exciting as print can be. His talent for the bullets-flying time-running-out action scene is unique. His pacing is unparalleled. And these aren’t toss-away airport-thrillers: They can be reread and re-enjoyed, which is part due to the vivacity of the characters and part due to DeMille’s extraordinary diligence working out his plot and researching his environment. I hate to use the expression “thought-provoking,” but that’s exactly what these novels are.
Read the first of the series – Plum Island (1997) – and you’ll want to read them all, this one included. But Radiant Angel does not feel like an appropriate end-cap to so fine a story. Even in terms of John Corey’s love-life, things are not left at a satisfactory stopping point – or at any rate not an adequately stable one. This book is a scherzo, not a finale. I don’t think Nelson DeMille is nearly finished with John Corey – in fact, I’d say the best Corey novel is yet to come. At any rate, this isn’t it.
Overall Goodness Rating (OGR): 7.5/10