Book Review- The Lion by Nelson Demille
By Tim Chamberlain
Nelson DeMille’s latest effort combines humor and violence (not necessarily in that order) with an examination of the clash between Middle Eastern and Western cultures to produce a novel that is both wildly entertaining and frighteningly realistic.
The Lion is the sequel to DeMille’s The Lion’s Game, published in 2000, which pitted retired NYC Detective John Corey against Libyan terrorist Asad Khalil, also known as The Lion. In this second installment, Khalil is back in the US three years after his last confrontation with Corey, seemingly emboldened by the World Trade Center attacks of September 11.
Corey worked closely with FBI Agent Kate Mayfield during the original conflict with Khalil, and something clicked: Corey and Mayfield are now happily married. DeMille uses this to ratchet up the tension further, as Khalil comes back to the U.S. to finish the job Corey and Mayfiled thwarted and adds them to his hit list. Khalil’s astonishing attack on Mayfield not only drives Corey’s actions through the rest of the novel, but it also show’s off DeMille’s skill in writing complex and breathtaking action sequences.
To heighten the contrast between the main characters’ respective cultures, DeMille moves between using the first person perspective in the Corey sections and the third person in the Khalil sections. By allowing John Corey to narrate his own sections, DeMille is easily able to show off the dry wit and internal dialogue of his mildly unreliable narrator. This unreliability usually introduces humor to the novel, in stark contrast to the graphic violence that tends to follow Khalil around.
The mood definitely changes when the author is following Asad Khalil. The third person narration allows DeMille to examine and describe Khalil clinically, giving these parts a much chillier feel than when we are listening to the detective. The descriptions of Khalil’s actions and methods are precise, brutal and devoid of humor, much like Asad Khalil himself.
The Lion takes on larger themes than just a clash between terrorists and the government. One way DeMille uses this story is to look at the endless war on terrorism. His obvious research and attention to detail give the reader an authentic feel of what it is like every day for the men and women whose task it is to keep this country safe. He is able to look at the relationship between Middle Eastern and Western cultures and how this is about more than terrorism—it is about a struggle between two value systems that have difficulty finding a middle ground. By successfully taking on this topic alone, DeMille has established himself as a master of timely, modern fiction.