Friday, January 12, 2007

Books I'm Not Reading -- "Wild Fire"

I'm still harboring a grudge against Nelson DeMille.

I usually only get paid to read science fiction and fantasy, but I do enjoy other genres, mysteries and thrillers in particular.

A few years back, somebody recommended DeMille's "Plum Island" to me. The book introduces former NYPD homicide detective John Corey and involves him in a case on Long Island that revolves around biological weapons and Captain Kidd's missing treasure. The climax of the narrative was a little, well, anticlimactic, but Corey is a wry, affecting narrator and DeMille keeps the action percolating for most of the book.

A couple of years later I read "The Gold Coast," his Gatsby-meets-The Godfather best-seller, while on a trip to Oregon. It doesn't feature John Corey, but it's a better book: funny, suspenseful, unique in its observations. Fitzgerald it ain't, but with much better writing than Puzo. Perfect for reading while on an Oregon vacation.

So far, so good, But then I picked up "Night Fall," the third in the Corey series, skipping "The Lion's Game," as I wasn't in the mood for Middle Eastern terrorist plots.

"Night Fall" has one of the worst endings I have ever encountered in a best-selling thriller. I am going to spoil it now, because it annoys me so. Run away if you do not wish to witness said spoiling.

DeMille resolves the central conflict of "Night Fall" by having all the major characters except John Corey and his spouse arrive for a breakfast meeting AT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2001!!!!! Boom go the planes, down come the towers, all the plot threads get sliced in one great whack. THE END.

I don't mind ambiguity in my thrillers, really. But I felt cheated by the way DeMille brazenly appropriated a national tragedy to create an escape hatch from the plot box he'd written himself into.

Now comes DeMille's latest, "Wild Fire," and John Corey is again the protagonist. I have a galley, and I momentarily considered reading it during the holiday doldrums. But then I thought, "Burn me twice..." And it becomes another Book I'm Not Reading.

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