Plum Island by Nelson DeMille

Plum Island by Nelson DeMille

Aug 24, 2023


"Plum Island" by Nelson DeMille is a gripping mystery novel that takes readers on a thrilling journey filled with suspense, intrigue, and unexpected twists. First published in 1997, the book features John Corey, a witty and engaging detective, as he investigates a murder that leads to a web of deception and hidden secrets. In this review, we will explore the strengths of "Plum Island," including its well-crafted characters, suspenseful plot, and the vivid portrayal of the Long Island setting.

Engaging Protagonist:

The heart of "Plum Island" is its protagonist, John Corey, a detective with the Suffolk County Police Department. Corey is a character who immediately captivates the reader with his sharp wit, sardonic humor, and fearless demeanor. As a former NYPD homicide detective, he brings a unique perspective to the investigation on Plum Island. Corey's unfiltered and often irreverent commentary adds both humor and authenticity to the narrative, making him a character readers can easily relate to and root for.

Corey's complex and multi-dimensional nature is another strength of the novel. Beneath his brash exterior, he grapples with personal demons, making him a character with depth and nuance. His interactions with the supporting characters, including his love interest, Beth Penrose, and his friend and partner, Kate Mayfield, add further complexity to his character and enrich the dynamics of the story.

Suspenseful Plot:

"Plum Island" is a masterclass in suspense and intrigue. The novel opens with the murder of Tom and Judy Gordon, a Long Island couple, and the theft of classified government documents. As Corey is assigned to the case, he quickly realizes that the Gordons' murder is more than a simple burglary gone wrong. The plot takes a series of unexpected turns as Corey delves deeper into the secrets hidden on Plum Island.

Nelson DeMille skillfully weaves a complex web of mystery and conspiracy. The novel is rife with red herrings, enigmatic characters, and a pervasive sense of unease. As Corey uncovers clues and follows leads, the tension escalates, and readers are kept on the edge of their seats, eager to unravel the truth behind the murders and the stolen documents.

The suspense is further heightened by the richly detailed Long Island setting. DeMille's vivid descriptions of the island's landscapes, from picturesque beach towns to the secretive Plum Island research facility, create an immersive atmosphere that adds depth to the narrative. The sense of place and the unique local culture contribute to the novel's authenticity and its ability to draw readers into the story.

Intricate Character Relationships:

"Plum Island" also excels in its portrayal of character relationships. The interactions between John Corey and the other characters provide a glimpse into their motivations, fears, and personal histories. Corey's evolving romantic relationship with Beth Penrose is an engaging subplot that adds depth to the story and humanizes the characters.

The professional dynamic between Corey and his partner, Kate Mayfield, is another intriguing aspect of the novel. Their contrasting approaches to the investigation, with Corey's unorthodox style and Mayfield's more by-the-book approach, create tension and conflict that propel the narrative forward. The characters' differing perspectives on the case add complexity to their partnership and offer insights into their personalities.

Exploration of Government Secrets:

"Plum Island" delves into the theme of government secrecy and the potential consequences of classified research. The novel raises thought-provoking questions about the balance between national security and public knowledge. As Corey delves into the mysteries of Plum Island, readers are prompted to consider the ethical and moral implications of government actions conducted under a cloak of secrecy.

The depiction of Plum Island and its history as a center for animal disease research adds an element of realism to the narrative. DeMille's portrayal of the island's activities and the potential risks associated with such research adds to the intrigue of the story and raises questions about the responsibilities of government agencies in safeguarding public health and safety.


"Plum Island" by Nelson DeMille is a thrilling mystery novel that combines an engaging protagonist, a suspenseful plot, and intricate character relationships. The book's vivid portrayal of the Long Island setting enhances the narrative and immerses readers in the story's atmosphere. As John Corey navigates the web of secrets and conspiracies surrounding Plum Island, readers are treated to a suspenseful and thought-provoking journey.

For those who enjoy mysteries that blend humor, intrigue, and ethical dilemmas, "Plum Island" is a must-read. It showcases Nelson DeMille's storytelling prowess and his ability to create a rich narrative that keeps readers guessing until the very end. The novel's themes of government secrecy and personal morality add depth to the narrative, making it a captivating and intellectually stimulating experience.