DeMille’s ‘The Lion’ suspenseful — and realistic

OK, so I don’t know where I’ve been, bookwise, but I’ve only lately discovered the joys of Nelson DeMille.

My first brush with DeMille was his “The Gate House,” a really fun read. Yes, there was a Mafia don with a vendetta, an expatriate wanted by his country’s secret police and a few assorted other villains, but for the most part, it was light-hearted and truly humorous. DeMille can deliver a mother-in-law quip with the best of them, and the hits just kept on coming.

“The Lion” is much more serious-minded, which I believe is more in keeping with DeMille’s oeuvre. The protagonist is a beleaguered federal anti-terrorism agent in post-9/11 New York. He’s a retired cop; his wife, an FBI agent. They’re newly married and blissful, and she’s broadening his horizons by introducing him to some of her favorite hobbies, such as sky diving.

Ah, but you knew there would be a villain in the wings, and it’s in the person of a shadowy terrorist named Asad Khalil, who personifies the word “ruthless.” And “bloodthirsty.” And “savage.” And … OK, you get the picture. Khalil is drawn to spilling blood the way a kitten is drawn to lapping up cream, and the blood he wants most is that of agent John Corey and wife Kate Mayfield.

There are plenty of twists and turns, plenty of lives lost as Khalil relentlessly — and ingeniously — stalks Corey and Mayfield.

It’s masterful storytelling, but here’s the real draw: As we complacently endure TSA screenings and yellow and orange alerts, we tend to forget one thing — this could really happen on any given day. And maybe does.


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