I, along with my fellow 24, fans — who have been longing for adventures to replace those of Jack Bauer — have found our Grail in The Devil’s Elixir. My only regret is not having known before volunteering to review this book that these characters have been featured in previous books by Raymond Khoury. So, now I’m itching to read the rest of them. Yes, I’m hooked.
The story powers through the fallout of a raid on a Mexican drug cartel gone bad. Throughout The Devil’s Elixir, Khoury reveals layers of the incident and its sequelae in thrilling and often unexpected ways. Our hero is FBI agent Sean Reilly, who has suffered personally on many levels since his perceived errors in judgment and action during the raid. This is amplified when the ramifications of the cartel leader’s anger begin falling upon not just himself, but those he loves.
Part of the suspense of the story is the gradual revealing of the myriad relationships between the characters and the true nature of the chemical substance the cartel leader is willing to kill for. The action accelerates quickly after the cartel attacks for the first time. Similarly to 24, there are some sequences that are vicious and brutal. Therefore, this book is not for children or the feint of heart. Nonetheless, the violence portrayed is not out of character for the personality of the villain being portrayed.
The form of the narrative is somewhat unusual, in that chapters alternate between first person and third person, depending upon whether the scene features the protagonist. I found this to be jarring at first, because it was unexpected, and it did cause me to review the first few chapters before moving more deeply into the story. Once I was oriented to the perspective, however, I actually enjoyed the flexibility that the changes in person offered the author in his construction of the story arc.
The only weakness I feel is worth comment is the way in which the concept of reincarnated lifetimes was introduced. Mind you, I think it’s a great twist and I won’t tell you any more about it because I never like to spoil the story for my readers. My complaint is that the notion could have been subtly foreshadowed earlier in the story. In its current form, this story element pops out a little too quickly like some kind of author’s convenience, rather than the creative story development it is.
If you want to read a fast-paced, action-packed thriller on your next vacation or on the commuter train to work, I highly recommend The Devil’s Elixir.