The October 12, 2000, terrorist attack on the USS Cole, an American guided missle destroyer at port in Aden, Yemen is the historical backdrop of "The Panther" the latest John Corey- Kate Mayfield thriller from Nelson DeMille http://www.amazon.com/Panther-John-Corey-Nelson-DeMille/dp/0446580848/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1357830154&sr=1-1&keywords=the+panther+nelson+demille.
Bulus ibn al-Darwish, an American born Al Qaeda terrorist operating in Yemen has been identified by the CIA and FBI as the mastermind behind the Cole attack, in which 6 American sailors died and over 30 were wounded. Al-Darwish, known as the Panther, needs killing, but he is hiding in Yemen and the US is not sure of his exact whereabouts. He is suspected of being near Marib, where, we the readers know, he massacred innocent Belgium tourists killing a young teenager and an old lady personally with his knife.
The CIA and FBI concoct a plan involving using Corey and Mayfield as bait to lure the Panther out of hiding so he can be brought to justice. It is thought that the Panther might be interested in taking out Corey and Mayfield because they killed an international Al Qaeda terrorist in the action packed and much better previous Corey novel "The Lion" http://www.amazon.com/Lion-Nelson-DeMille/dp/0446619256, which was a sequel itself to the exciting "Lion's Game" http://www.amazon.com/Lions-Game-Nelson-DeMille/dp/0446679097/ref=la_B000AQ2RZ0_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1357830246&sr=1-2.
So Corey and Mayfield meet Buck Harris, an American operative, who tells them about Yemen and about the plan to send them to capture or kill the Panther. All three then go to Yemen, a lawless country involved in internal strife and warfare, where Al Qaeda operates, the Beduin tribes are hostile to the government and lying and killing are simply part of everyday life. DeMille paints a vivid picture of this ugly country and of the Americans forced to work there for the good of American interests, which at times are ugly.
When Corey and Mayfield arrive in Yemen, they meet an old veteran DeMille character Paul Brenner, who was last seen in The General's Daughter. Brenner is clearly a good guy in the DeMille universe, and Corey and Mayfield definitely feel that he is a straight shooter. Corey and Mayfield make their presence felt around Yemen so that the Panther knows they are in country. There are some good scenes in Sana and Aden and on the road to Aden.
But in general this part of the novel is excessively talkative and long and could have been cut significantly. This 629 page novel could have been a much better 400 page novel. Corey spouts off DeMille's trademark quips and humorous asides on practically every two pages. Although at times amusing, Corey's quips soon feel forced.
Corey and Mayfield trust Brenner and his colleague Zamo, an experienced soldier and sniper, the same cannot be said for the other two American operatives, Buck the long time operative and Chet Morgan, the CIA agent sent to help with the capture/killing of the Panther. Corey suspects that the CIA has never forgotten or forgiven Corey and Mayfield from killing a CIA operative in one of the earlier DeMille novels or for foiling a CIA sponsored illegal plan to detonate nuclear bombs in the Middle East. Corey suspects that Chet might have more on his mind than killing the Panther.
Chet informs Corey, Brenner and Kate that the CIA has a diabolical plan to get to the Panther. They will use the Beduin tribes to fake the kidnapping of the Americans and when the Panther comes to meet the Beduins to get the Americans, Chet will use Predator drones armed with Hellfire missiles to take out the Panther, and it turns out the Beduin sheik as well. It seems that the Beduin sheik is not trusted by the Yemen leader and this betrayal is necessary for the good of American interests. Everyone in country cannot be trusted.
Needless to say the showdown between the drones and the Panther and Corey's suspicions of the motivations of the CIA are revealed in the last 150 pages in which Corey must act fast to survive and to take out the Panther. It pays to know who your real friends are in Yemen and in DeMille's books.
This novel is a far cry from the best of the Corey series, but if you can make it to the last quarter of the story and you enjoy Corey and by extension DeMille's humorous asides, there is enough action in this fairly predictable novel for any fan of this series.