Plum Island (John Corey Series #1)by Nelson DeMille
Wounded in the line of duty, NYPD homicide detective John Corey convalesces in the Long Island township of Southold, home to farmers, fishermen - and at least one killer. Tom and Judy Gordon, a young, attractive couple Corey knows, have been found on their patio, each with a bullet in the head. The local police chief, Sylvester Maxwell, wants Corey's big-city… See more details below
Wounded in the line of duty, NYPD homicide detective John Corey convalesces in the Long Island township of Southold, home to farmers, fishermen - and at least one killer. Tom and Judy Gordon, a young, attractive couple Corey knows, have been found on their patio, each with a bullet in the head. The local police chief, Sylvester Maxwell, wants Corey's big-city expertise, but Maxwell gets more than he bargained for. The early signs point to a burglary gone wrong. But because the Gordons were biologists at Plum Island, the offshore animal disease research site rumored to be involved in germ warfare, it isn't long before the media is suggesting that the Gordons stole something very deadly. Suddenly a local double murder becomes a crime with national and worldwide implications. John Corey doesn't like mysteries, which is why he likes to solve them. His investigations lead him into the lore, legends, and ancient secrets of northern Long Island - more deadly and more dangerous than he could ever have imagined. During his journey of discovery, he meets two remarkable women, Detective Beth Penrose and Mayflower descendant Emma Whitestone, both of whom change his life irrevocably.
This time, DeMille limns not the Fitzgeraldian wealth of Oyster Bay but rather the North Fork's comfortably well-offbut less-fancy citizens. An NYPD homicide detective, John Corey, has moved into his uncle's fine digs overlooking Great Peconic Bay. Restlessly recuperating from wounds received in the line of duty, he's happy to answer the summons of the Chief of the Southold Town PD, an old friend, who hires him to consult on the double murder of Tom and Judy Gordon, biologists who worked on (nonfictional) Plum Island, the site of animal disease research for the Department of Agriculture. Were the Gordons murdered because they'd stolen some valuable new vaccine, or even a dreaded virus? They'd obviously far outspent their income, living high on the hog and buying a very expensive and speedy powerboat as well as an acre of bluff overlooking the bay. Had they been running drugs? Corey doesn't think so, although an ice chest missing from their boat points to something forbidden being hauled from Plum Island. He teams up with Beth Penrose, a Southold detective working her first homicide. Their visit to the Plum Island research facility and the Gordons' labs reveals only that the FBI and CIA have sanitized the place and have run up false information for public consumption. Corey also falls in with the star-crossed Emma Whitestone, a researcher of historic artifacts and an expert on Captain Kidd's lost treasure, which is thought to be buried somewhere nearby. Among the murder suspects is nasty viniculturalist Fredric Tobin, a smoothie who lures the ladies with champagne and Concorde jets.
Heavy wisecracking keeps the fun flowing as DeMille cranks up a thrilling, entertaining plot.
Read an Excerpt
By Nelson DeMille
Warner BooksCopyright © 1997 Nelson DeMille
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThrough my binoculars, I could see this nice forty-something-foot cabin cruiser anchored a few hundred yards offshore. There were two thirtyish couples aboard, having a merry old time, sunbathing, banging down brews and whatever. The women had on teensey-weensey little bottoms and no tops, and one of the guys was standing on the bow, and he slipped off his trunks and stood there a minute hanging hog, then jumped in the bay and swam around the boat. What a great country. I put down my binoculars and popped a Budweiser.
It was late summer, not meaning late August, but meaning September, before the autumnal equinox. Labor Day weekend had gone, and Indian summer was coming, whatever that is.
I, John Corey by name, convalescing cop by profession, was sitting on my uncle's back porch, deep in a wicker chair with shallow thoughts running through my mind. It occurred to me that the problem with doing nothing is not knowing when you're finished.
The porch is an old-fashioned wraparound, circling three sides of an 1890s Victorian farmhouse, all shingle and gingerbread, turrets, gables, the whole nine yards. From where I sat, I could see south across a sloping green lawn to the Great Peconic Bay. The sun was low on the western horizon, which was where it belonged at 6:45 p.m. I'm a city boy, but I was really getting into the country stuff, the sky and all that, and I finally found the Big Dipper a few weeks ago.
I was wearing a plain white T-shirt and cutoff jeans that used to fit before I lost too much weight. My bare feet were propped on the rail, and between my left and right big toes was framed the aforementioned cabin cruiser.
About this time of day you can start to hear crickets, locusts, and who knows what, but I'm not a big fan of nature noises so I had a portable tape player beside me on the end table with The Big Chill cranking, and the Bud in my left hand, the binocs in my lap, and lying on the floor near my right hand was my off-duty piece, a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver with a two-inch barrel which fit nicely in my purse. Just kidding.
Somewhere in the two seconds of silence between "When a Man Loves a Woman" and "Dancing in the Street," I could hear or feel on the creaky old floorboards that someone was walking around the porch. Since I live alone and was expecting no one, I took the .38 in my right hand and rested it on my lap. So you don't think I'm a paranoid citizen, I should mention that I was convalescing, not from the mumps, but from three bullet wounds, two 9mm and one .44 caliber Magnum, not that the size of the holes matters. As with real estate, what matters with bullet holes is location, location, location. Obviously these holes were in the right locations because I was convalescing, not decomposing. I looked to my right where the porch turned around the west side of the house. A man appeared around the corner, then stopped about fifteen feet from me, searching the long shadows cast by the setting sun. In fact, the man cast a long shadow himself which passed over me, so he didn't seem to see me. But with the sun at his back, it was also difficult for me to see his face or to guess his intentions. I said, "Help you?"
He turned his head toward me. "Oh ... hey, John. Didn't see you there."
"Have a seat, Chief." I slipped my revolver into my waistband under my T-shirt, then lowered the volume on "Dancing in the Street."
Sylvester Maxwell, aka Max, who is the law in these here parts, sauntered toward me and plopped his butt on the rail, facing me. He was wearing a blue blazer, white button-down shirt, tan cotton slacks, boating shoes, and no socks. I couldn't tell if he was on or off duty. I said, "There're some soft drinks in that cooler."
"Thanks." He reached down and rescued a Budweiser from the ice. Max likes to call beer a soft drink.
He sipped awhile, contemplating a point in space about two feet from his nose. I directed my attention back toward the bay and listened to "Too Many Fish in the Sea"-The Marvelettes. It was Monday, so the weekenders were gone, thank God, and it was as I said after Labor Day when most of the summer rentals terminate, and you could feel the solitude returning again. Max is a local boy and he doesn't get right down to business, so you just wait it out. He finally asked me, "You own this place?"
"My uncle does. He wants me to buy it."
"Don't buy anything. My philosophy is, if it flies, floats, or fucks, rent it."
"You going to be staying here awhile?"
"Until the wind stops whistling through my chest."
He smiled, but then got contemplative again. Max is a big man, about my age, which is to say mid-forties, wavy blond hair, ruddy skin, and blue eyes. Women seem to find him good-looking, which works for Chief Maxwell, who is single and hetero.
He said, "So, how're you feeling?"
"Do you feel like some mental exercise?"
I didn't reply. I've known Max about ten years, but since I don't live around here, I only see him now and then. I should say at this point that I'm a New York City homicide detective, formerly working out of Manhattan North until I went down. That was on April twelfth. A homicide detective hadn't gone down in New York in about two decades so it made big news. The NYPD Public Information Office kept it going because it's contract time again, and with me being so personable, good-looking, and so forth, they milked it a little and the media cooperated, and round and round we go. Meanwhile, the two perps who plugged me are still out there. So, I spent a month in Columbia Presbyterian, then a few weeks in my Manhattan condo, then Uncle Harry suggested that his summer house was a fitting place for a hero. Why not? I arrived here in late May, right after Memorial Day.
Max said, "I think you knew Tom and Judy Gordon."
I looked at him. Our eyes met. I understood. I asked, "Both of them?"
He nodded. "Both." After a moment of respectful silence, he said, "I'd like you to take a look at the scene."
"Why not? As a favor to me. Before everyone else gets a piece of it. I'm short on homicide detectives."
In fact, the Southold Town Police Department has no homicide detectives, which usually works out okay because very few people get iced out here. When someone does, the Suffolk County police respond with a homicide detail to take over, and Max steps aside. Max does not like this.
A bit of locale here-this is the North Fork of Long Island, State of New York, the Township of Southold, founded, according to a plaque out on the highway, in sixteen-forty-something by some people from New Haven, Connecticut, who, for all anybody knows, were on the lam from the king. The South Fork of Long Island, which is on the other side of Peconic Bay, is the trendy Hamptons: writers, artists, actors, publishing types, and other assorted anals. Here, on the North Fork, the folks are farmers, fishermen, and such. And perhaps one murderer.
Anyway, Uncle Harry's house is specifically located in the hamlet of Mattituck, which is about a hundred road miles from West 102nd Street where two Hispanic-looking gentlemen had pumped fourteen or fifteen shots at yours truly, accomplishing three hits on a moving target at twenty to thirty feet. Not an impressive showing, but I'm not criticizing or complaining.
Anyway, the Township of Southold comprises most of the North Fork, and contains eight hamlets and one village, named Greenport, and one police force of maybe forty sworn officers, and Sylvester Maxwell is the chief, so there it is.
Max said, "It doesn't hurt to look."
"Sure it does. What if I get subpoenaed to testify out here at some inconvenient time? I'm not getting paid for this."
"Actually, I called the town supervisor and got an okay to hire you, officially, as a consultant. A hundred bucks a day."
"Wow. Sounds like the kind of job I have to save up for."
Max allowed himself a smile. "Hey, it covers your gas and phone. You're not doing anything anyway."
"I'm trying to get the hole in my right lung to close."
"This won't be strenuous."
"How do you know?"
"It's your chance to be a good Southold citizen."
"I'm a New Yorker. I'm not supposed to be a good citizen."
"Hey, did you know the Gordons well? Were they friends?"
"So? There's your motivation. Come on, John. Get up. Let's go. I'll owe you a favor. Fix a ticket."
In truth, I was bored, and the Gordons were good people.... I stood and put down my beer. "I'll take the job at a buck a week to make me official."
"Good. You won't regret it."
"Of course I will." I turned off "Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog" and asked Max, "Is there a lot of blood?"
"A little. Head wounds."
"You think I need my flip-flops?"
"Well ... some brains and skull blew out the back...."
"Okay." I slipped into my flip-flops, and Max and I walked around the porch to the circular driveway in the front of the house. I got into his unmarked PD, a white Jeep Cherokee with a squawky police radio.
We drove down the long driveway, which was covered with about a hundred years' worth of raw oyster and clam shells because Uncle Harry and everyone before him threw shells on the driveway along with the ash and cinders from the coal furnace to keep the mud and dust down. Anyway, this used to be what's called a bay farm estate, and it's still bayfront, but most of the farm acreage has been sold. The landscape is a little overgrown, and the flora is mostly the kind of stuff they don't use much anymore, such as forsythia, pussy willow, and privet hedges. The house itself is painted cream with green trim and a green roof. It's all pretty charming, really, and maybe I will buy it if the cop docs say I'm through. I should practice coughing up blood.
On the subject of my disability, I have a good shot at a three-quarter, tax-free pension for life. This is the NYPD equivalent of going to Atlantic City, tripping over a tear in the rug at Trump's Castle, and hitting your head on a slot machine in full view of a liability lawyer. Jackpot!
"Did you hear me?"
"I said, they were found at 5:45 p.m. by a neighbor-"
"Am I on retainer now?"
"Sure. They were both shot once in the head, and the neighbor found them lying on their patio deck-"
"Max, I'm going to see all this. Tell me about the neighbor."
"Right. His name is Edgar Murphy, an old gent. He heard the Gordons' boat come in about 5:30, and about fifteen minutes later he walks over and finds them murdered. Never heard a shot."
"No. I asked him. His wife's got okay hearing, too, according to Edgar. So maybe it was a silencer. Maybe they're deafer than they think."
"But they heard the boat. Edgar is sure about the time?"
"Pretty sure. He called us at 5:51 p.m., so that's close."
"Right." I looked at my watch. It was now 7:10 p.m. Max must have had the bright idea to come collect me very soon after he got on the scene. I assumed the Suffolk County homicide guys were there by now. They would have come in from a little town called Yaphank where the county police are headquartered and which is about an hour drive to where the Gordons lived.
Max was going on about this and that, and I tried to get my mind into gear, but it had been about five months since I had to think about things like this. I was tempted to snap, "Just the facts, Max!" but I let him drone on. Also, "Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog" kept playing in my head, and it's really annoying, as you know, when you can't get a tune out of your head. Especially that one. I looked out the open side window. We were driving along the main east-west road, which is conveniently called Main Road, toward a place called Nassau Point where the Gordons live-or lived. The North Fork is sort of like Cape Cod, a windswept jut of land surrounded on three sides by water and covered with history.
The full-time population is a little thin, about twenty thousand folks, but there are a lot of summer and weekend types, and the new wineries have attracted day-trippers. Put up a winery and you get ten thousand wine-sipping yuppie slime from the nearest urban center. Never fails.
Anyway, we turned south onto Nassau Point, which is a two-mile-long, cleaver-shaped point of land that cuts into the Great Peconic Bay. From my dock to the Gordons' dock is about four miles.
Nassau Point has been a summer place since about the 1920s, and the homes range from simple bungalows to substantial establishments. Albert Einstein summered here, and it was from here in nineteen-thirty-whatever that he wrote his famous "Nassau Point Letter" to Roosevelt urging the president to get moving on the atomic bomb. The rest, as they say, is history.
Interestingly, Nassau Point is still home to a number of scientists; some work at Brookhaven National Laboratory, a secret nuclear something or other about thirty-five miles west of here, and some scientists work on Plum Island, a very top secret biological research site which is so scary it has to be housed on an island. Plum Island is about two miles off the tip of Orient Point, which is the last piece of land on the North Fork-next stop Europe.
Not incidental to all this, Tom and Judy Gordon were biologists who worked on Plum Island, and you can bet that both Sylvester Maxwell and John Corey were thinking about that. I asked Max, "Did you call the Feds?"
He shook his head.
"Murder is not a federal offense."
"You know what I'm talking about, Max."
Chief Maxwell didn't respond.
Excerpted from Plum Island by Nelson DeMille Copyright © 1997 by Nelson DeMille. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Talk about being late to the party. I saw this book everywhere in the bookshops when it first came out years and years ago and I thought "What a lame title, I won't read that." Then I saw it again on a friend's bookshelf and was forced to borrow it after I disparaged the book based on the title and my friend said I'd eat my words. And boy did I ever. Not only was the plot was dizzyingly fast and intriguing, De Mille has created a fantastic character in John Corey. I loved his wisecracking, jaded view of the world, which is unusual because (1) I don't usually like cynical characters and (2) I can't remember the last time I read a "summer blockbuster" sort of book like this one that was narrated by a character this memorable. I think I've found a new author whose back catalog I'm going to have to work my way through.
DeMille always does one thing right as a writer: he entertains. Over the course of 15 books (not including ones written over 30 years ago and under the name Jack Cannon) DeMille has consistently maintained a bestseller status, because he can write. As a reader you are pulled into his stories seamlessly and read 100 pages without even blinking. No other writer can keep this reader more engaged and surprised than DeMille. But this is undeniably true with PLUM ISLAND. The cover alone is a sneaky clue to the plot. The action and intrigue are fresh and revitalizes the thriller. With an almost KEY LARGOesque endgame and a realized way at defining characters, this is truly a BOOK TO BE A SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER FILM. But beyond all of that lies at its heart one of the most engaging heros ever conceived: John Corey. His manners are scratched and his jokes are annoying to everyone (except to himself and the reader), but still comes off as an intelligent and competent vacationing cop who gets embroiled in the mystery involving a couple who worked on Plum Island- an animal disease compound that hides more than Ebola and Anthrax. After reading all of his work this remains my favorite, mostly for giving readers what so many authors try for but never pull off - the perfect thriller.
Finally went back to the beginning with John Corey and haven't been disappointed after reading books later in the Corey series. I find myself laughing out loud at some of Corey's comments and the positions he finds himself in. Regardless of the humor, these are well written dramas with true to life situations and relationships. I would recommend readers follow up with the additional stories, as they only get better. DeMille is a classic true crime writer with a lot of heart.
I highly recommend this book to anyone that likes a thrilling and very creative story filled with solid characters. Nelson Demille has thought this one out very well.
Wow...I finished this book in four days, partly b/c u can not put it down! Its so0o funny,witty,cool and colective,yet at the the same time consisting of plots and twists on every page. Plum Island is truly a page turner!
I jove John Corey's smart mouth and wit. Great book could not put it down.
Simply put, this book is a fun read. It starts off fast then the storyline gets introduced and the book drags a bit then speeds up and the reader finishes about 200 pages, in a sitting, to conclude another great Demille book. I have personally read only 2 other Demille books (Nightfall and Lion's Game) and with these 3 books Demille really makes the reader think. His knowledge and extensive research on the topics that he is writing about is amazing.
This is my favorite of the series. Engaging, humorous and I like the locale. I know I've enjoyed a book when I think back on it years later.
This is the book that got me started on all DeMille books! Great read!
Love his character humor
I usually do not go for mass market paperbacks, but his mass market paperbacks are amazing--interesting, fast paced, adventurous with interesting subject matter. His descriptions cause vivid imagination from the reader. I have read more than 8 books by this author, and I find them all quite excellent. You can reread them after a year or so, and enjoy them like a rerun of a favorite film.
This was a great book. and very touching in one part. John Corey is a smart-alec but in a very funny way. I thouroughly enjoyed this book and I reccomend it highly.
John Corey is definitely one of the wittiest and most original characters I've ever come across. I love his irrelevant attitude. I was totally knocked by the plot twist toward the end of the book. highly recommended.
Demille keeps you off guard throughout and compels you to keep reading. It didn't turn out the way I expected, which was a great surprise. I stayed up several nights just to finish.
It was nice to have a story that wasn't predictable. I also really enjoyed the sense of humor incorporated into the story . It was a book I just couldn't set down. I'm looking forward to continuing the series.
I had to force myself to finish this book. I found the main character, John Corey, to be an extremely unlikable character and I had a very hard time relating to him. The plot was unbelievable in several places and predictable. The momentum of the plot also dragged a few times. I am the type of reader that can greatly enjoy reading "fluff" books and I can overlook unbelievable scenarios if the adventure is fun, but this book just annoyed me. I found myself wondering why no one ever told Corey to shut up ... I like sarcastic characters, but he was too constantly juvenile in his actions and words. I didn’t believe that Corey could ever be a top notch homicide detective in a major metropolitan city acting as he does. Also, I didn’t feel I was solving the mystery with Corey; often Corey came to conclusions about people he met or facts he was told, seemingly from out of nowhere, with very little detail or information given to the reader so that s/he could come to the same conclusion. I think this was a failure on the part of the author to make sure the reader was really along for the ride.
As the title suggests, this is the first DeMille book I've read and I plan to continue with all the Corey books! A great read that is held back from 5 stars only because one part of the book slows down with TOO much about what is actually on Plum Island. Otherwise, it is a rapid page-turner to the very end. Corey is one obnoxious guy - but you root for him all the way through.
I loved this book! The main character, John Corey, is just so hilarious that he offsets the seriousness of the deadly situation at Plum Island just right. Not only do you get a great thriller, but laugh-till-you-cry wit- a perfect combination!!!
Absolutely one of the best books I have ever read. This is my first Nelson Demille book and I couldn't wait to go buy up all others that I could find. John Corey is great. His character is superbly developed, and very believable. The storyline and Demille's way of conveying the story makes it very hard to put down. I really appreciate the fact that nothing was 'over the top' or unbelievable. I recommend this book highly to anyone. Great job Mr. Demille! I just started reading The Lion's Game and am hoping that Corey is not killed off. Keep him coming.
I loved Plum Island! It actually made you feel like you were in the mind of a homicide detective! I will absolutley read it again!
Plum Island is definitely a mystery/thriller. We start off by meeting the main character, John Corey. He’s a New York City homicide detective who’s currently convalescing at his Uncle Henry’s home on Long Island. He’d been shot 3 times in the line of duty and was waiting to see if he could continue working or not. While kicking back on the house’s deck, watching the boaters, his friend Sylvester Maxwell, more commonly known as Max, came to him. Max was the area’s chief of police and he needed John’s help. A couple had been murdered and Max didn’t know too much about homicide. The area he was in charge of was small and murder just wasn’t done. So John decided he was bored and tagged along to help him. The couple turned out to be scientists who worked on the famed Plum Island where an animal biological research site that was also rumored to be a site for biological warfare research. They also happened to be two people John had become friends with while he was staying on Long Island. In looking into Tom and Judy Gordon’s past, workplace and friendships, John eventually decided things weren’t all that they appeared. They had done odd things like buy useless land and had a high speed boat they were barely able to handle. We also meet Detective Elizabeth Penrose, a Suffolk County homicide detective. She was a very strict, by-the-book kind of detective. It was her first big case and she wanted to prove that she could do it, even if her perfect body (of course) seemed to say otherwise. She actually disappears off the radar, so to speak, partway into the book, but reappears near the end. John likes coming across as a bumbling idiot. He loves to crack stupid wise ass remarks at anything that might be important to the case. As the book progresses, all 574 pages of it in the paperback version, it gets a little old. However, what’s interesting is the author had other characters in the book call him on it. At the beginning of the book, there were a few point of view changes that caused me to stumble. It’s mainly written from John’s point of view in 1st person, but it would periodically slip into 3rd person. The author apparently decided the reader needed some important bit of information and slipped it in. It wouldn’t be so bad (I stopped noticing later on in the book) if the POV changes hadn’t happened in the same paragraph for a single sentence. A lot of times, I’d have to go back and re-read that section and see what just happened. Not good when you’re trying to get a reader hooked into a book. I did laugh out loud several times and found the book amusing. As I neared the end, I couldn’t put it down because I was excited to find out what would happen. I honestly did not see the end coming. That’s fascinating in the world of mystery/thrillers because I’ve long been able to figure it out. I would definitely recommend this book to others. The author has a fun way of writing and John Corey is quite the character. It won’t make it on to my shelves, but I’ll remember this book long after I’m done with it.
I liked the story and the twists but did not enjoy the main character. He was arrogant, full of himself and had an attitude problem. I was annoyed by the constant use of "whatever", "and so on", "and so forth", " and stuff ", "and all that". If all of this authors books are like this I will not be reading anymore of his work. It is hard to like a story where you can't stand the main character.
This is my first John Corey novel and I have to say, I'm torn. It's definitely a good story, but it drags and is repetitious. I often found myself saying, "OK, we get it, let's move along." But my biggest complaint is the John Corey character. Now, I like cynical characters, and did chuckle at some of John's quips and even at some of his self-admitted male chauvinism (tho that's a bit old -- yawn. .), but his boring opinions about every female character he encounters (legs, thighs, butt, breasts, blah- blah) and his seeming inability to "keep it in his pants" I found distracting. Maybe this is a female reader thing, but it appeared that John conducts his sex life by whoever will get their panties off for him first, didn't seem to matter if it was Beth or Emma or ?. I guess he does develop some actual feelings later on. The other thing that's too unreal is all the busting up of things that John does, like during the hurricane; it comes too much out of the blue; this kind of quiet guy who's known that the Tobin character is guilty for a long time, all of a sudden starts breaking in everywhere and comes out swinging a fire axe at everything. This guy's a cop, and makes this statement earlier in the book that cops can't be vigilantes, and vigilantes can't be cops, hmm, distracting. For a more 3-dimensional character who admits he's a vigilante, is not a cop, and who I find just generally more likeable, read the "Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson, which also has a spiritual/sci-fi twist.
A great book in a great series. You will not regret getting started!
John Corey is a wonderful character with a New York attitude. He is smart, cynical, and self-assured. My kind of guy!