Nelson DeMille’s WILDFIRE continues the raucous adventures and career of former New York Police Department homicide detective John Corey. DeMille’s latest scenario takes place a year after 9/11 with newspaper and cable news blaring headlines that President Bush is about to launch an invasion of Iraq. Corey, who retired on disability after being wounded three times is a special contract agent who is attached to the Federal Anti-Terrorist Task Force (ATTF). The ATTF is an amalgam of FBI agents, NYPD detectives, special agents, Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents, Port Authority detectives, and of course CIA types. The story begins when special agent and former NYPD detective, Harry Muller is sent on a surveillance mission in upstate New York designed to gather information concerning the Custer Hill Club, or as Muller describes as the “right wing loony lodge.” While taking photos and observing the membership, Muller is captured and taken inside the club.
Once inside the reader meets Bain Madox, president and owner of the Custer Hill Club and Global Oil Corporation. Other members of this right wing cabal include Scott Landsdale, a CIA official; General James Hawkins, USAF and a member of the Joint Chiefs; Paul Dunn, a member of the President’s National Security staff; and Edward Wolffer, Deputy Secretary of Defense. After his seizure, Muller observes an executive board meeting of the Custer Hill Club where he learns of the memberships concern about a possible nuclear attack from a dirty bomb on American soil. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union a number of these small nuclear devices, referred to as “suitcase nukes,” have been disseminated worldwide. At the meeting Muller learns of a secret government protocol developed during the Reagan administration called “Wildfire,” a hardwired, meaning the American response to any nuclear attack will happen automatically with no presidential influence. The response is focused on an Islamic terrorist nuclear attack against the United States that is designed to destroy the Islamic world. Muller sits in the meeting and wonders if this is a fantasy of the “wacko birds on the right,” or were these men serious.
Since Arab governments were informed of “Wildfire” it was designed to operate like the Cold War concept of mutually assured destruction or MAD, and it provided governments a strong incentive to control any terror plots in their countries. An added bonus for Madox and company was that any US response would also allow the seizure of Arab oil fields. Since the likelihood of any nuclear terror attack by Islamic extremists was low, Madox argued that the US should attack two of its own cities which would trigger “Wildfire.” For Madox this made sense because the US was about to launch an invasion of Iraq and as a Vietnam veteran he argued once war begins one does not know where it will take you. The Custer Hill Club members developed Project Green, an immediate attack on two US cities that would launch a nuclear response and destroy the Islamic world, negating a need to invade Iraq. Landsdale believed that Muller was sent to scare the Custer Hill Club into action, ordered by higher ups in the government that were not club members. The man behind the plot is Ted Nash, a former CIA operative who was supposedly killed in 9/11. Nash was also an old enemy of John Corey, who with his wife Kate Mayfield, an FBI agent, were committed to solving a murder that would lead them to “Wildfire.”
DeMille scenario is extremely scary. However, if one thinks about the last fifteen years of American policy in the Middle East is it beyond the pale that someone might have thought of it and possibly kept it on the back burner for the appropriate time. I am certain that the reader will engender some of these thoughts as they read DeMille’s novel as John Corey and Kate Mayfield are dispatched to locate Harry Muller and they soon confront the possibility of a nuclear holocaust.
DeMille provides his usual sharp and crisp dialogue, enhanced by Corey’s sarcasm and witty comments. The characters that are created are purely fictional, but DeMille tries to leave some doubt in the reader’s mind that they are 100% fictional. As usual the conflict and poor communication that existed before 9/11, and probably still exists today between the NYPD, State Police, CIA, and many other agencies is well represented in the plot. Overall, the conclusion of the story is predictable, but because of DeMille’s talents, WILDFIRE is a good read.
(the site of WILDFIRE)