Title: The Maze (2022) Author: Nelson DeMille Publisher: Scribner Book jacket: John Corey is in forced retirement, restless, and looking for action. When his former lover, Detective Beth Penrose, appears with a job offer, Corey has to once again make some decisions about his career — and about reuniting with Beth Penrose. Joe says: The Maze, like its namesake, is full of questionable dead ends and tempting lines that lead to nothing more than feints. DeMille succeeds in delivering an easy, entertaining adventure albeit a weary one as those already well-trod trails are set upon again and again.
Nelson DeMille unashamedly, unabashedly knows his audience and he always delivers. And if his latest book is not, well, a peak performance piece, there is still a base level of entertainment totally worth the admission price. For DeMille’s – and ex-cop, ex-agent John Corey’s – latest, base entertainment is best we are going to get.
The Maze features the long-anticipated return of John Corey, wise ass smart guy numero uno. Following Corey’s previous outing, 2015’s Radiant Angel, the hero has left the federal agencies behind and explores a new plan: forced retirement. But for someone like John Corey, retirement ain’t all Budweisers by the Bay… unless of course that sounds like paradise. Enter Long Island Detective, and former flame, Beth Penrose who has a mission for the Scotch-drinking scallywag. A number of murders – all lady-of-the-night types – have been loosely linked to a sleazy PI firm on the Island. Beth’s lovely looks and open liquor cabinet convince John to infiltrate the agency in hopes to expose massive countywide corruption and bring the murder victims some justice. Easy, right? Right.
DeMille, and the reader, effortlessly slips into Corey’s pressed khakis and bulletproof-liver. John always provides a good read and DeMille spends plenty of time – okay, truthfully, way too much time – getting back into his pun-a-minute head. So much so that the true plot does not fully materialize into well past a third of the book. Once the criminal impetus is outlined, and John’s marching orders are actualized, DeMille then slips into a terrible pattern of repetition. Corey reviews his plans, both investigative and frivolous, over and over. And over again.
Even worse? The amount of inner dialogue and wheel spinning significantly reduces the overall narrative. The climax rushes into a surprising and not overly-gratifying end. Once DeMille gets deep into the mystery of The Maze, the story goes on auto-pilot and becomes a retread of Night Fall, one of DeMille and Corey’s best. If John Corey’s saga was a long beach, The Maze is that hot, soft sand you run right through in order to get to the cool surf, and good times, ahead.
The Maze, like its namesake, is full of questionable dead ends and tempting lines that lead to nothing more than feints. Sometimes there is excitement in getting lost. Other times, those paths are frustrating. DeMille succeeds in delivering an easy adventure albeit a weary one as those already well-trod trails are set upon again and again.
John Corey deserves the best of send offs. And perhaps it is not yet his time. After all, cool cats like John always need a place a scratch.
A raised glass of Dewar’s to Scribner for the advanced copy, a gift I am always thankful for.