An amazingly powerful drug provides the MacGuffin for Khoury’s exciting thriller with a paranormal twist. Narco kingpin Raoul Navarro (aka El Brujo, the shaman), who for years has been ingesting a medicinal herb known in 18th-century Mexico as the Devil’s Elixir, sees a huge market for the drug if the chemical can be synthesized into a convenient pill form (“It’ll make meth seem as boring as aspirin”). FBI agent Sean Reilly is at home in Mamaroneck, N.Y., when he receives a panicked phone call from ex-girlfriend and former DEA agent Michelle Martinez, who says she’s fled her San Diego home after armed men broke in and shot her boyfriend. Catching the next flight to California, Sean discovers a strange link between Michelle’s four-year-old son and the Devil’s Elixir. Khoury has to work hard to make the drug’s earth-shattering ramifications believable, but fans of the author’s bestselling Templar novels (The Templar Salvation, etc.) will play along. (Dec.)
The tenuous domestic tranquility enjoyed by FBI agent Sean Reilly (The Templar Salvation) and archaeologist-turned-author Tess Chaykin is jolted by a blast from Reilly's past. Fleeing a gruesome home invasion, former DEA agent Michelle Martinez calls Reilly, her ex-boyfriend, to protect her and Alex, the son he didn't know they shared. As Michelle's case unfolds into more than a thwarted burglary, the body count rises, and Reilly is suddenly embroiled in a multiagency investigation. Drug kingpin El Brujo (The Sorcerer) pursues Alex, believing him the means of decoding the formula of the most powerful psychotropic drug ever synthesized. Weaponized or distributed, this drug in El Brujo's hands would wreak global havoc. Khoury's screenwriting experience is evident in the easily visualized action scenes, but unlike his previous novels, the prose here lacks elegant phrasing between the punches. VERDICT This time, Khoury's soapbox topics include biker gangs, Mexican drug cartels, veterans' affairs, and the criminalization of drug use, but his key interests in this thriller are ethnobotany, proprietary rights, and the ethics of bioprospecting. For thriller fans, this exciting if sometimes dry lecture is still worth auditing. [See Prepub Alert, 3/21/11.]—Laura A.B. Cifelli, Ft. Myers-Lee Cty. P.L., FL
Lust for a potent, mind-ripping drug brings only trouble and dead bodies in this fast-paced thriller set primarily in Mexico and Southern California. In 1741 Mexico, a Jesuit priest has an extraordinary experience that may destroy his soul. Over two centuries later in the same country, a covert U.S. drug operation turns sour. Years later in San Diego, a man and woman are murdered, drawing in ex–FBI agent Sean Reilly, the woman's former lover. Reilly has since married. His wife Tess takes the murdered woman's 4-year-old son Alex under her wing as Reilly tries to learn the reason for this crime. Meanwhile, young Alex has drawn a disturbing picture he can't explain, but that couldn't have any connection to the mystery—or could it? Reilly had killed a man in that botched Mexican operation, and he now learns that all the events are connected. Suddenly he is thrown into a situation much bigger than the mortal threat to him and his family. A cartel is after the ancient secret to a mysterious hallucinogen that may have the power to shake the world to its core. The criminals see Reilly as the key to finding it—or is he the person they really want? The novel is full of twists, one of them hard to believe—or is it? Reilly faces a formidable opponent in El Brujo, a vicious beast with interesting means of punishing his enemies, but they are not the only hazard Reilly faces. Luckily, he has critical support from Tess despite a couple of big surprises. What with all the poisons, gunfire and wholesale bloodletting, he needs whatever help he can get. Vivid, energetic scenes ensure that Khoury's tale never falters or bores. It's the sort of novel that could make a colorful movie, but meanwhile, enjoy the book.