“The Devil’s Elixir” by Raymond Khoury

“The Devil’s Elixir”
by Raymond Khoury
read by Richard Ferrone
published by Penguin Audio
Approx 12 hours
I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into when I started this book but the summary on the back of the cd box was intriguing:

“What if there was a drug, previously lost to history in the jungles of Central America, capable of inducing an experience so momentous – and so unsettling – that it might shake the very foundations of Western Civilization?
What if powerful forces on both sides of the law got wind of that drug and launched a vicious, uncompromising pursuit to possess it?”

With that sort of intro, I thought this was going to be one of your typical cops and robbers/detectives audiobook. Let’s just say, I was a bit wrong on that assumption. Also, that summary also held a bit of a spoiler that pretty much ticked me off. Once I got to the section that was spoiled. But I’ll not giveaway the surprise ending.
Starting out I wanted to share my views of the production aspect of this book. The book is read by Richard Ferrone, who has this cool sounding rough, gravelly voice. It is a very intriguing book, but the first time I started listening, It was hard to stay interested because his voice seemed a bit too much. I decided to give the book a second chance and after the first cd, out of 10, I caught his rhythm and it flowed perfectly. It was just getting used to his timbre that took some time. Once it started flowing it seemed a perfect fit to the main character, FBI agent Sean Reilly, and being told mainly from his point of view it worked. The problems I had were the sections where it was from an out-of-story observer’s point of view where it took more time to get accustomed to. As a whole it was a good listen but I did have to let it just flow over me to get to that point.

The story starts out with a monk in the jungles of Central America finding the secret to life in through the help of a local plant and a shaman. When another monk from the monastery in Spain tracks down the first he finds that the first has been partaking of “The Devil’s Elixir” and they both leave the secret in the jungle. Jump ahead about 300 years and the DEA/FBI are trying to bring back to the states a chemist who has found this elixir and is helping to manufacture what “will make meth seem like aspirin” for a Mexican Drug Cartel. Sean Reilly is the FBI agent on scene and when the US forces are discovered on the compound all hell breaks loose and he is forced to assassinate the chemist and leave.

After that bit of a prologue the book takes off and does not slow down until the surprising twists toward the end of the book. There are two twists that make this book one of those that will make you speak aloud the phrase, “Whaaat?!?…cool, wait, What?!?..No!!” At least that’s what I did. One of the twists dips into an esoteric view and then the other is one that almost seems inevitable.

The action takes off when an old flame of Sean Reilly’s calls him after she has been attacked in her home and she’s on the run with her 4-year-old son. The old flame is Michelle, a former DEA agent, and she is being target by a biker gang. Even though she is no longer in law-enforcement, they won’t stop trying to capture her. When Reilly comes to San Diego to help her out it is discovered that the biker gang, under orders of a mysterious drug cartel, is capturing scientists and a psychologist and is after Michelle because of what she may know, but it turns out Michelle is not the target, the actual target is part of that “Whaaat?!?” moment I warned you about.

I hadn’t paid much attention to this aspect but the book is actually part of a series of books by Khoury, however this book reads easily as a standalone action novel. In a shoot-em-up thrill ride that will take you from the jungles of Central America through Cartel Compound in Mexico and through the streets of San Diego this book doesn’t stop once it starts rolling.