THE DEVIL’S ELIXIR marks a new adventure in Raymond Khoury’s series featuring FBI agent Sean Reilly and his girlfriend, archaeologist Tess Chaykin. This time around, they find themselves caught in the middle of a drug war with a new superdrug that has roots dating back to the 1700s in Mexico. This drug is creating a path of destruction as an evil drug kingpin will stop at nothing to obtain the secret behind producing it.
"Raymond Khoury has created a novel that is packed with non-stop excitement and enough death, destruction and suspense to thrill any reader."
Reading less like a historical novel and more like a crime/suspense tale, THE DEVIL’S ELIXIR is a bit a departure for Khoury. Sean finds himself pulled into this mess when ex-colleague and former lover Michelle Martinez contacts him after her house is attacked by armed men who shoot and kill her boyfriend in the process. By the time Reilly arrives in California to help Michelle, he is too late --- she has been killed by the mystery men who ransacked her house. Sean is forced to take in her four-year-old son, Alex, while pursuing the drug cartel responsible for these deaths. He, of course, must call in the assistance of Tess Chaykin, who plays more of the “babysitter” role at this point as the focus remains on him.
Early on in the book, we learn some of the history behind the superdrug in question. The brutal drug kingpin known as El Brujo is obsessed with the drug and is mercilessly pursuing anyone who might know about it. Originally called the Devil’s Elixir, it is said to contain properties that include providing the taker with the gift of supernatural sight. Such an experience will cause madness by the millions who seek to experiment with it. El Brujo is warned that the drug is a blasphemy from which he cannot be saved.
Along with the deaths caused by El Brujo’s pursuit of the elixir, a series of kidnappings have occurred. Certain scientific “brainiac” types have been targeted since they may possess the technical chops to research and recreate the drug. El Brujo is blinded by the magic that is promised by the drug and the age-old mysteries behind its origin. Meanwhile, Sean had teamed with various drug enforcement officials who have been working tirelessly to bring down the Mexican cartel that is threatening to expose the drug to the streets of America and the world beyond.
Tess is doing her own part in trying to unearth the drug’s origin and finds herself following the origins of a flower with the power to kill. El Brujo and his cartel always seem to be one step ahead of Sean and Tess, leading them to believe that someone on the inside is leaking information to the cartel. Tess finds out that the drug had its origins back with Amazonian shamans who stumbled upon the magical flower while experimenting with various hallucinogens. They might have found a drug with properties that satisfy mind, body and soul.
THE DEVIL’S ELIXIR takes a very metaphysical turn as the supernatural property of this drug opens the door to deeper context. Additionally, Sean cannot get over the fact that he is somewhat haunted by the spirit of the man whose death he takes responsibility for. He is alarmed by this as he still feels a mighty guilt with ramifications that may stem far beyond his own conscience.
Raymond Khoury has created a novel that is packed with non-stop excitement and enough death, destruction and suspense to thrill any reader. The addition of metaphysical elements merely raises the tale to a new level and creates much room for discussion and interpretation that should linger long into the next Sean Reilly/Tess Chaykin thriller.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on December 16, 2011