Of all the detective series with gritty, smart-aleck detectives, I have to say that John Corey grates on me the most. I have a love/hate relationship with these books because the stories are absolutely fantastic, but I’m getting to the point that I really can’t stand the main character, no matter how good he is at his job.
Wild Fire continues where Night Fall left off. John Corey is still on the joint terrorism task force along with his wife, Kate Mayfield. Following the events of 9/11 there’s a lot more going on in terms of checking out possible terrorist activity. His boss wants him to do some surveillance in Upstate New York, but John has plans with his wife for the weekend, so another agent is sent. That agent fails to report in on Monday.
His body is discovered near his surveillance target: The Custer Hill Club. Nestled in the Adirondack Mountains, this place seems to be a gathering place for some of the richest and most politically-connected men in the country. The local police think the death was a hunting accident, but John Corey is not so sure, especially considering that he was originally supposed to have the assignment.
What’s going on at the Custer Hill Club? If you imagined a cabal of government officials and wealthy industrialists who would like to trigger a chain of events resulting in World War III, you would not be far off the mark. It’s a race against time for John and Kate to figure out how the agent was killed and why, as well as stop the launching of nuclear weapons to trigger retaliatory strikes against the Muslim world.
The villain here is a man named Bane Madox. He’s one of the richest industrialists around and thinks he’s figured out a way to eliminate terrorism. He thinks nothing of wiping out an entire American city or two filled with people, as long as the end result justifies the means in his eyes. Most of the time I felt like I was dealing with a James Bond novel rather than John Corey. Bane doesn’t take into account at all the number of innocent people who will die due to his actions, nor does he care. He’s a madman with all the money to cause these events to happen. The fact that so many in government go along with the plan is rather disturbing. Even taking into account that this book was published a mere 5 years after 9/11, it smacks of racism and xenophobia on his part, as well as taking out people in America who don’t think the way he does. When choosing which cities to target to trigger the response, he’s all too happy to take out “liberal” cities.
Corey understands how Bane is thinking to a certain extent, which makes it all the more disturbing. He’s not so sure eliminating the Muslim world is a bad thing. It’s more the collateral damage Bane shrugs off that seems to disturb Corey the most. I like that he’s going after the right-wing crazies, though. I would say that DeMille saw the threat they posed long before the election of Barack Obama which sent them into a white-pride-frenzy. At this point, though, Corey doesn’t seem like he’s too sure they’re entirely wrong.
The action is a break-neck pace as Corey tries to stay one step ahead of his bosses and solve the murder and prevent World War III. He leaves trails for other agents to follow that are dead-ends. He tries to bring in local authorities, then dismisses them too after he’s used them. It seems that everyone is incomptent except he and Kate, who is less reluctant to challenge him after she saw how right he was in Night Fall.
I really enjoyed Wild Fire and read through it pretty quickly. Despite having some misgivings about the political ideology of John Corey, he’s a good character. His sarcasm and dry with can wear on a reader after a while, though. I couldn’t imagine being married to someone like him who seems to look down on everyone, even his wife, but makes it clear as we read his thoughts he’ll do just about anything to please her. Not everything has to be narrated with total sarcasm and disdain.
However, I do recommend the book. I learned about extremely low frequency arrays and then a few weeks later got to see one on the coast of Maine. It is one of those things that you never think about much (how do they communicate with submarines?) and when I learned about it here it was eye opening. DeMille goes for as much accuracy as he can with the story and at times bends it slightly to fit the narrative. Overall, though, a very good story.