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The Deserter
Scott Brodie \Maggie Taylor #1
By Nelson DeMille / Alex DeMille

Simon & Schuster
Oct. 22, 2019/ ISBN 9781501101755

Reviewed by Elise Cooper

The Deserter by prolific author Nelson DeMille is co-written with his son, Alex DeMille. Readers will not be disappointed. After all, what is there not to like with a DeMille novel. It has a thrilling mystery, engaging characters, and humorous/sarcastic banter.

The story seems to be based on Bowe Berghdal, a US soldier stationed in Afghanistan who walked away from his post, had two of his peers killed trying to find him, and was caught by the Taliban who kept him in supposed captivity. But then the plot takes a twist and turn. Delta Force Army Officer Kyle Mercer, the Berghdal supposed character, has escaped the Taliban by beheading his captors and fleeing to Venezuela. After being spotted by an old army buddy, the top military brass decide to send two members of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) to that evil socialist country to find Mercer and bring him back for trial of desertion. Scott Brodie, a former infantry soldier in Iraq, now a top CID investigator, is teamed with Maggie Taylor, a former Civil Affairs E-5 in Afghanistan, who is working for CID. While Brodie is wise-cracking, arrogant, and someone who has trouble following orders, Taylor is a by the books person who tries to rein in Brodie.

“We wrote this profession as CID Officers because they can travel anywhere in the world. If we had chosen local cops, then the setting would be stuck in a particular municipality, or if Federal Agents like the FBI, they would be limited to mainly traveling around this country. The CID has authority wherever this is an American military base.”

“We wrote the bad guy Kyle Mercer as patriotic and a member of an elite force. Mercer was taken advantage of by the powers that be and came to a place where he no longer respects authority. Because of what he was asked to do, he lost respect for himself. I would compare him to the Frankenstein monster character. They were put on this destructive path, but it was not their fault.”

As the investigation takes hold, it becomes apparent that there is more behind Mercer’s desertion. Brodie and Taylor find disturbing and treacherous secrets by lofty officials in the military and intelligence agencies. The question becomes has the government been involved in immoral activities; in other words, it is the deep state implementing unethical deeds. This is what DeMille is best at, offering conspiracy theories to make a riveting storyline.

Nelson DeMille noted, “The common denominator between Brodie and Corey is that both are cops, so they have the same mindset. We changed Brodie purposely by giving him a rural background from upstate New York rather than growing up in East Manhattan. We also made Brodie’s thinking different than Corey, although the sarcasm is the same. Both are arrogant, smartasses, macho men. Much of this banter and the military jargon was written by me.”

Alex DeMille added, “Brodie is the architype that my dad writes, the wiseass intelligent rule breaker, but I made him more responsible than Corey who takes pride in people underestimating him. I wrote this book in the third person, similar to what my dad did in his earlier novels. I wanted to distinguish this book from the John Corey books.”

The DeMilles have written a classic Nelson DeMille book that has politics, espionage, and suspense. Readers are taken on a roller coaster ride in this action-filled story. A bonus is the description of Venezuela in historical terms where it has become a “country on the edge, economically desperate, with weak and corrupt institutions and a government openly hostile to American interests.”

Reviewed 2019