Book Reviews

Book Review: Plum Island by Nelson DeMille – Another Smart-Mouthed Detective, John Corey

I first became interested in reading Nelson DeMille after it was discussed in one of my groups about the town that I grew up in that he graduated from the same high school as me (although many years earlier).  I liked what I had read so far, so I began my journey into the world of NYC Homicide detective John Corey with Plum Island.

For those not in the know, Plum Island is an island off the end of Long Island owned by the US government.  It’s the location of its Animal Disease Research Facility as well as at one time during the Cold War being the site of research into biological warfare targeting livestock.

In the novel, John Corey is recovering from nearly being killed by three bullets when he is visited by a local sheriff.  There’s been a murder in the quiet hamlet of Southold, and the police force there isn’t used to handling such serious cases.  Two of Plum Island’s researchers have been killed.  They also happened to be acquaintances of Corey’s.

He soon finds himself embroiled in the murder investigation, albeit reluctantly at first.  Suffolk County’s homicide unit is on the scene, as are the FBI and CIA.  All are concerned the murder had something to do with the research on the island.  Were the couple smuggling a pathogen such as anthrax to sell to terrorists? Or were they selling an immunization to the highest bidder? Or was it something completely unrelated?  Corey seems to be fighting time and everyone else, including his own bosses in New York City to find out exactly what happened and why.

Perhaps because I am thoroughly immersed in Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, but another smart-mouthed detective was a bit tiring.  Corey is quite similar in many ways to Bosch, and told in the first person we get many of the same sarcastic observations and stupid jokes that annoy the people he’s teamed up with.  If you like Connelly, you’ll like Plum Island, but I wouldn’t recommend reading them at the same time.

Other than that, I enjoyed Plum Island quite a bit.  The way the murder investigation unfolds is a lot of fun.  I lived out in this area for one year in the 1980s and was very familiar with the surroundings DeMille references as well as being accurate.  The characters are multi-dimensional and blend together quite well to create a good story.  They are interesting without descending into jokes or caricatures.  Really, I didn’t figure it out until close to the end and although the last few chapters might have been a bit unbelievable, it was otherwise a good read.

If you enjoy good mysteries, I do recommend Plum Island.  I think the ending could have worked a little differently (and I don’t want to go into too many details for fear of spoiling it) instead of having Corey manage to do something he had no experience with before.  Otherwise, this is a well-paced fun read that will keep you wondering until near the end.  Add another half-star if you’re familiar with this part of Long Island.

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