What happens when your loyalties are in conflict and you must betray your old mentor in order to fulfill your duty? What if this old mentor who used to protect and help you as a kid is now a dangerous drug-and-human trafficking overlord? This is the predicament our protagonist, Tim Kelly, faces at the beginning of this partly autobiographical suspense thriller by talented first-time author Jim Gilliam.
An undercover narcotics officer now working in the Mexican hacienda of Guzman, his old mentor, his real identity is discovered by Guzman’s “right hand,” Rucho, a bully who also knew Kelly from his childhood days. Guzman decides Kelly’s fate and orders that he be injected with heroin so he’ll become an addict and beg for his own death. Unbeknown to Guzman, Rucho adds physical torture to the punishment. Kelly slips in and out of consciousness and through his mind we begin to see flashbacks of his life. So the book starts in the present but then goes back in time to relate the events that led him to his present situation, from his early days of fighting bullies, when he met Guzman and Rucho, to his escape at 14 to New Orleans to join the Coast Guard, to his experiences in the military and later to his becoming an undercover narcotics officer.
Point Deception is a compelling novel and its strength lies in the protagonist. Kelly is a complex character with lots of flaws, yet sympathetic in a bittersweet kind of way. A hot-tempered, impulsive romantic hero, he won’t play by anybody’s rules and makes his fair share of mistakes.
Though it may put some readers down, I found all the details about weapons, drugs and the military fascinating. I also enjoyed the dynamics between the characters. At times I felt there was a lot of telling but it didn’t bother me for the most part. This is a novel that will strongly appeal to fans of military thrillers.
Like his protagonist, Jim Gilliam ran away from home and joined the Coast Guard at 14. He has recently retired from the Navy’s Military Sealift Command and is currently writing the sequel to his novel. He lives with his wife Laura in Warwick, New York