Reading Raymond Khoury’s The Devil’s Elixir can be hazardous to your sleep cycle! You won’t be able to put the book down until you reach the last page.
Once again, Khoury pairs up FBI agent Sean Reilly and archeologist Tess Chaykin whom long-time Khoury fans already know from their tangled and dangerous destinies in The Last Templar and The Templar Salvation. (See also my review of The Templar Salvation.) In this high-energy thriller, Reilly and Chaykin shift their focus from Templar and Vatican mysteries to a potentially more dangerous secret extracted and resynthesized out of the South American rainforest.
Eusebio, the priest who learned about a psychoactive alkaloid from a tribal shaman in 1741, viewed the “sacred brew” as a catalyst that could lead a seeker toward mystical enlightenment. Álvaro, his Jesuit brother at the mission, called the drug the devil’s elixir. In the hands of a present-day drug lord named El Brujo the drug represents not only a belief-changing experience but a chance for unlimited profits with a potion more powerful than meth, cocaine and heroine combined.
Reilly is is drawn away from New York into the high-body-count world of drug cartels and kidnappings when a former girlfriend calls to report her life is in danger. Former DEA agent Michelle Martinez’s story is so compelling that Reilly packs his bags and heads for San Diego immediately. Soon, his life will be at risk as will Chaykin’s. One way or another, sparks fly when Reilly and Chaykin are involved in a case. This time out, there are a couple of additional complications, one being that Reilly never told Chaykin about his earlier relationship with the “seriously hot” Martinez.
Khoury’s story moves briskly with alternating chapters from the perspectives of El Brujo, southwestern FBI operatives, the drug lord’s foot soldiers, Reilly and Chaykin. This approach heightens the intrigue by showing the reader thrills, chills and plot twists that the primary characters have yet to discover. Reilly is a strong-willed, indefatigable FBI agent who gives everything he has to keep his loved ones safe while keeping the devil’s elixir out of the black market supply chain. At the same time, his conscience constantly asks him whether the ends justify his means.
Readers new to Khoury’s fiction may think as they finish each chapter in The Devil’s Elixir, “certainly things can’t get any worse than this.” Those who have read The Last Templar and The Templar Salvation know things never get better until the story’s over because following a Khoury plot is similar to riding a snowball through hell.
The Devil’s Elixir is a delightfully breath-searing ride.
The Devil’s Elixir by Raymond Khoury
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Dutton Adult (December 22, 2011)
—Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of four novels, including the recent contemporary fantasy Sarabande.