Customer Reviews: Plum Island (John Corey Book 1)
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on March 1, 2000
This is the first DeMille book I have read and I loved it. I have subsequently read "The Gold Coast" and "The Charm School" both of which I enjoyed but not as much as I enjoyed reading Plum Island.
First of all, the setting. DeMille describes a charming east Long Island that I never paid much attention to (I travel through Orient Point a half a dozen times a year). We receive an interesting portrayal of the quaint villages, the local flavor, and the snotty wine growers. DeMille also gives the reader a dose of the history of the area describing the early times when pirate landed on its shores. Then there is Plum Island itself which I will gaze at more closely now each time I pass it on the ferry.
The characters are well developed. John Corey, the lead character, is this off-duty detective who gets caught up in this mystery. He's brash, sometimes rude, prefers a good beer to a vintage glass of wine and is very likeable. The other characters, including the minor ones, are defined enough to feel like you know them.
The plot. I won't give anything away. ..just a good mystery that leads you down a few different directions.
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on January 31, 2007
Take Michael Connelly's Detective Harry Bosch, a hard-boiled, talented, nearly burnt-out loner with lots of psychological baggage and absolutely no respect for superiors or procedure. Add the self-deprecating faux stumble-bum approach of Peter Falk's Columbo and toss in a heaping helping of smart-aleck motor mouth Rodney Dangerfield complete inability to control the flow of virulent sarcasm and wisecracks! Sounds a little much, doesn't it? But he's our hero for Nelson DeMille's "Plum Island".

John Corey, NYPD homicide detective, is on medical leave recovering from bullet wounds when his friend, chief of the Southold Police Department, enlists his aid looking into the double homicide of Tom and Judy Gordon, also friends of Corey, and employees of Plum Island, the nearby high-level bio-containment facility studying deadly animal diseases such as anthrax and simian Ebola. First terrifying appearances were that some sort of biological terrorist threat had gone sour but the old rule of "follow the money" lead to a somewhat more tolerable line of investigation. It seemed the Gordons had stolen a vaccine with the motive of peddling it to the pharmaceutical world for billions.

But Corey's in-your-face persistence was uncovering clues and details that just didn't seem to mesh with that story. Simple drug-running was a possibility but even that didn't quite click. Eventually, Corey uncovers an amazingly entertaining story of greed, money, murder, mayhem and political skullduggery spanning three hundred years of history and ranging geographically from New York, to the Caribbean, to England and back again.

In a style that reminded me of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's incurable penchant for technical sidebars, DeMille has tossed off a bewildering variety of essays that entertained, informed and, at the same time, moved the story forward. The staged lecture tour of Plum Island's hazardous facility, hosted first by Security Chief Paul Stevens and followed by the facility's director Dr Zollner was worth the reading of the book all by itself. But you'll also be treated to snippets of detail on coastal marine navigation, a cornucopia of procedural information on the necessary foundation police work to solving a homicide and (are you ready for this?) a rather extensive history of Captain Kidd and his 17th century privateering exploits that ultimately ended in his execution in England!

Lots of promise to be sure and there's certainly no doubt about DeMille's skill as a writer! But, just as a little bit of someone like John Corey would go a long, long way in real life, his constant cracking wise left me cold on the printed page as well! If DeMille had seen his way to lopping 100 pages off the final draft, it would have been just right and I would have ended the story not only entertained by the police procedural but laughing at Corey's antics in the bargain. Just three stars but recommended as a quick and entertaining piece of brain candy anyway! Enjoy!

Paul Weiss
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on January 27, 2004
This was fun. The main character (John Corey) is an over-confident wise-guy detective who thinks he's God's gift to women. His arrogance is funny.
The pace of the book is very good. It's 500 pages, but it's still a quick read.
There were a few flaws, but they were minor. Corey is meant to be recovering from a gunshot wound (through the lung?) but throughout the book he exerts himself way beyond what he should be able to do. DeMille fails to explain the origins of a vital letter at the end. Some sequences are not believable, like the speedboat ride through a hurricane, where the characters are still able to carry on a light-hearted conversation despite being blasted with smashing waves and hurricane winds.
Overall, it was well worth the read. I laughed out loud several times. This was my first DeMille, but I'll be looking for more.
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on January 23, 2002
Plum Island is my third Nelson DeMille book and like the previous two I've read (Gold Coast and Charm School), it's a little long winded, probably 100 pages longer than it needed to be, but the primary character, John Corey is his best character to date. I agree with other reviewers that he is arrogant, but he is pretty funny with his sarcasm, which makes him tolerable when the story drags.
The storyline, which deals with the murder of employees of Plum Island, where work is done with hazardous materials (including anthrax) is obviously very timely today. It makes a lot more sense today than in 1997 when this book was first published. You get to learn a little about this stuff, so DeMille's research doesn't go to waste here.
I found fault with DeMille's decision to let Corey figure out who the criminal was midway through the book and then spending the rest of the book showing how he gets this person. It would have been nice if he threw in a plot twist somewhere later to shake things up and add some suspense, but it's a good book that will lead me to read The Lion's Game (another Corey book) in the future.
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on August 18, 2001
I've read all the DeMille I can get my hands on, and this one was one of my favorites. It's the first book in a set of two, The Lion's Game as its companion book (and which is a smidge better than this one, even!).
I like DeMille because at his best, his characters are smart and sassy, and the stories are cohesive, with serious subject matter presented with a touch of the absurd; the seriousness doesn't become so grave so as to obliterate any enjoyment of the story or his use of words. This story exemplifies exactly what I mean... once you begin reading, it's like riding over rapids. The water just rushes on, makes you laugh, and occasionally you stop, startled, when something bumps a bit more than you expected.
In this particular story, our main character (NYC investigator Paul Corey) is recovering on Long Island from some gunshot wounds, and he gets involved in the local double homicide of two scientists who work on Plum Island, a contagious disease research center right off of the coast. Of course, Paul is (in his own mind at least) smarter and savvier than any of the local yokels, even the pretty detective Beth Penrose, who's in charge of the investigation (although properly, she's not local, either).
The fact that the scientists worked with some of the most lethal pathogens on earth rises all sorts of speculation that they were being evil and subversive to assist some less-friendly nation with the wiping out of the human race, but Corey in all his infinite and dubious wisdom, uncovers an alternative theory that's much less lethal -- at least for greater mankind -- but all the more intriguing for those who love history and treasure hunts.
I enjoyed this book. Most voracious readers would, too.
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on March 29, 2012
This book had such great reviews I settled in for a fine scientific mystery. At the beginning it was clear the writer was gifted, had some wry obvservations,and the protagonist was a Spenser-like gumshoe. But it didn't take long to realize that the book needed serious editing- who wants to read endless chit-chat about virtually nothing except cheap and gratuitous insults from a cop we don't like? All this during what should be an exciting part- a tour of a biohazard facility- that's so boring it feels like we're stuck on an actual, interminable tour, with the tourguide being a sexist throwback who thinks he's way too clever. (DeMille writes ironically, "I felt a sudden panic attack coming on. Here I was trapped in a small bus with this monotonal, monochromatic moron." I can relate!) The tour goes on for SIX chapters and NOTHING interesting happens- and it turns out to have nothing to do with the plot! We miss you, Michael Crichton! It's nothing but self-indulgent wisecrack dialogue from this creepy cop. Robert Parker's Spenser made fun of pretentious people with an insight and sophistication that had us rooting for him; this guy is rude and crude to everyone and makes us cringe. While Spenser had some mild girl-watching qualities there was self-mockery there; I cannot believe the hamhanded sexist remarks, jokes that would make a hormonal teenager cringe, and jarring descriptions of the guy's private parts in this book. But the unpardonable sin is that the book needs editing with a meat cleaver. You're buying a thriller and you get long, long passages about the history of everything on Long Island, paragraph after paragraph of random observations with no action, boring interviews that seem to go nowhere etc. I started skimming paragraphs, then pages, then chapters, and halfway through abandoned the whole thing. I would say the plot lacked any coherence but there's very little plot, just a writer who thinks his discursive thoughts are way more intersting than they actually are.
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on December 8, 2004
I read Lion's Game first, so my introduction to John Corey was a little out of order. My first DeMille book was Charm School and I fell in love with his work then. Lion's Game was better than Plum Island for Corey's quirky, eccentric characteristics, but he's such an interesting guy, you have to love him. The action is good. This book is a little predictable, but fun anyway. After these two Corey books, I do wonder how he ends up with the women, though.......Excellent author. I would always recommend Nelson DeMille.
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on August 18, 1997
I was completely absorbed by this book -- for the first 50 pages. Then I was overwhelmed by a completely unlikable, unbelievable protaganist. John Corey apparently meets only single, attractive, available women everywhere he turns that find him irresistable despite the fact that he thinks, acts and speaks like a half-witted 10 year-old. A little bit of this went a long, long way. This book was a sorry disappointment and it's hard to believe it was written by the same person who wrote The Gold Coast, The General's Daughter and Word of Honor. Pick one of these up instead -- you'll be glad you did
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on April 5, 2006
Having loved THE GOLD COAST, I was anxious to read more by Nelson DeMille. While I don't think this one is as good, it was a highly entertaining mystery-adventure that convinced me to never step foot in a boat again.

John Corey is a wise-cracking, highly irreverent NYPD cop, convalescing at his uncle's Long Island home after being nearly killed on the streets of Manhattan. While his humor often seems misplaced, this self-described "annoying hemorrhoid" wowed me with his detecting skills, his sensitive side, and his antics.

When a young couple, good friends of his, are killed at their home, John Corey becomes personally involved in finding their killers. Tom and Judy Gordon were employees at Plum Island, an animal disease research site rumored to be a breeding ground for germ warfare, including the now widely recognized and deadly anthrax. Rumors abound as to the reason for the murder----were the Gordons selling a deadly virus to the enemy or saving humanity and pocketing the change? Corey solves the case midway through the book and launches an all-out attack to get the killer to spill his guts-literally.

There's tales of pirate treasure, strolls through lush vineyards and charming towns, romantic nights, and a breathless boat chase you won't soon forget. Corey himself describes it as "the worst experience of my life, if you don't count my walk down the aisle to the altar." I look forward to reading more of DeMille's books featuring John Corey.
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on July 12, 2015
The first four-fifths of the book was fine. Well paced; he built us a sympathetic picture of the heroes, and described their characters vividly. And then, he had a brain fart, and sent them out to sea in a thirty foot speed-boat, in the teeth of a tropical storm pushing out 60 knot winds. Is the author taking the piss, or is he just blissfully ignorant of the actual sea state around a storm like that? Do you know what a forty foot wave looks like? Do you have any idea how much spume and spray would blow horizontally over the sea surface? Visibility would be zero, and the best you could do is heave to, and ride the waves as best you could. A sea anchor would be a big help. But no, our heroes not only manage to make progress on a voyage that we were earlier told took about an hour in calm weather, but they also engage in a gunfight with the baddy on the (very) high seas. Holy bulls***, Batman!
And the problem is that if he writes about something you know about, and you find that it's complete and utter tripe, you wonder about the rest of the book. Did he get his police procedurals from reading the National Enquirer?
Perhaps he should take a cruise on a small ship around New Zealand. Puysegur Point at the SW tip of Fjordland can usually be counted on to serve up 40-45kts. A night of rock'n'roll in 8m swells should give him a somewhat more realistic perspective.

Update & spoiler alert - after struggling to the end, I took another star off, because it got sillier and sillier. John Corey eviscerates the bad guy, but doesn't kill him because "he's not a cold-blooded killer". Right - that's certainly my practice when I disembowel someone. I only do it to wound, but not to kill. Don't get me wrong, I like fantasy - loved the Discworld series - but the mix of genres was a bit too hard to take. I won't hurry to buy another.
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