Nelson DeMille has a type. And he loves that type. Alpha males prone to deviations of orders and common sense alike. Lovers of beer. And blondes. Although, there has historically been more success with the beer.
Nelson DeMille has fans. Legions of them. And for the record, I’m card-carrying member #7593. These fans (us fans?) know what to expect from a Nelson DeMille novel. The beats are set. The tune can be hummed. Only the location changes. Sometimes.
The Deserter, co-written with DeMille’s son, Alex, features two Criminal Investigation Division officers, Scott Brodie and Maggie Taylor, assigned to Venezuela in pursuit of an army deserter. Not merely the army mind you, but a member of the Delta Force elite. Kyle Mercer, said deserter, has a mission. Maybe not a mission from, you know, God, but Ozzie Guillén at least. Brodie and Taylor attempt to navigate a highly-corrupt and dangerous regime in Caracas in order to find clues on Mercer’s whereabouts. As the hunts deepens, they begin to question their mission, Mercer’s motives, and even Taylor’s purchase of a certain skimpy bikini. The Deserter starts fast and different and compelling as perhaps Alex was able to stretch his influence. Yet once the good-old DeMille one-two punch starts, the formulaic barrage is inexhaustible.
DeMille’s formula works. And you know, is also highly entertaining. The Deserter is more than an action-thriller as, in a similar view to The Cuban Affair, DeMille shows the politics of the region. He denigrates the despair while praising the people. He takes his readers to lands such readers would not normally visit and brings those locales to life with the adventure of it all. Unfortunately Brodie is nothing more than a revisionist character of John Corey, John Sutter, or more recently, Daniel MacCormick. Their dialogue is fun, their egos grand, but, twelve stories later, they are hardly unique. DeMille’s alphas don’t need to be neutered, like that failed attempt during Timothy Dalton’s James Bond films, but a reboot on the archetype couldn’t hurt.
The Deserter is everything a Nelson DeMille fan has come to expect and even wants to expect: clever dialogue, precarious situations, bad choices, and badder bad guys. But man, even a slight change in the routine would be as welcomed as Dewar’s on ice instead of neat.
A round of shots to the fantastic teams at Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for the chance to read, review, and enjoy this advance copy. A world of thanks to Nelson and Alex DeMille for including me on their latest escapade.