(The Devil’s Elixir was later re-issued as Second Time Around)
I first came across Raymond Khoury when I became incredibly interested in Templar history, and since his debut historical-thriller, The Last Templar took historical fact and turned into a piece of action packed fiction, well I couldn’t really resist could I? That and its sequel were extremely entertaining, and when I heard that a third book in the series was to be released, featuring indefatigable FBI agent Sean Reilly and Archaeologist Tess Chaykin once more, I instantly pre-ordered it.
The third book in the series is perhaps the most adventurous in terms of personal connection for the main protagonists. When Reilly receives a phone call from an ex-girlfriend telling him she’s in danger, the FBI agent finds himself mixed up with Mexican drug cartel and hardcore biker gangs. Reilly world is instantly changed when Michelle, his ex, reveals a secret to him, and he suddenly realises there’s more at stake than ever before. And why is a narcotic killer known as ‘El Brujo’ after ancient drug that could change the way in which drugs affect the world, and what has it got to do with the ramblings of a Jesuit priest called Eusebio?
It sounds incredibly dramatic doesn’t it? At first, I have to admit, that I was a little apprehensive about this one. Simply because Khoury strays from the Templar background altogether, so The Devil’s Elixir is pretty much a thriller. He also takes the brave step in writing it in the first person, from Reilly perspective, which again differs from the previous instalments. But, in all honesty, it is one hell of a thriller. It is so full of action, you simply get so absorbed by the thrill-rides, you could almost forget your train. What is so addictive about Khoury’s stories, is that they are always dramatic in the good sense; you could easily see the scenes play out in your own mind as if you were watching a brilliant high-octane TV drama. (A resemblance to his TV writing days perhaps?)
The change in perspective is actually a bold move that paid off, as it makes the whole book much more personal. you really do get into the head of Reilly, especially as you follow the action along with him. You feel for him, cheer for him, even shout at him; forgetting where you are, urging him to get a move on! This is not just your average macho, testosterone-fueled FBI agent, this is a man that discovers a secret that has been kept from him for years, and you can’t help but admire how he steps up in such a mature way to deal with the situation. One of my qualms with The Templar Salvation (previous book) was how Tess Chaykin was portrayed as perhaps a dim secondary character, and I was pleasantly surprised how much she progressed as an adult as well as a character in this. She’s smart and practical, and you sympathise with her more for it.
I loved the twists and turns this Book seemed to have, as they felt much more smooth flowing and natural. I especially loved ‘El Brujo’ the sadistic antagonist in here as sometimes you just love a bad baddie, don’t you? He’s insane, twisted, and believes the stuff he shouts about, which gives way to some pretty gruesome scenes, so if you are a little squeamish, be prepared.
I was a little disappointed to not find any long-lost mystery here, simply because you get so accustomed to these revelations, but instead imagine my surprise when I got to the last third of the book, only to discover a slightly paranormal angle. Paranormal elements in thrillers are pretty unheard of, so it was exceptionally refreshing to read it, and put in such an authentic way too. Khoury doesn’t mock or embellish either, so it reads perfectly. I loved this aspect of the book, and in fact the last third was so addictive, I devoured it in two sittings, which is unusual for me. Sometimes, you have to love the types of books where the hero and baddie meet for the first time and the ending fight begin.
On reflection, I did find a few points though that troubled me slightly. This is very much an adult book, and such a specialised book too in terms of genre, but the amount of acronyms in here was a little mind boggling at times. SDPD, EMS, DEA, NCIC, UCB … and that is just the start! Sometimes they are perhaps a little unnecessary, although for a reader used to reading this sort of terminology may disagree with me. Khoury does explain the terms upon first use, but when you get two hundred pages or so in and you see one that was told towards the early stages of the book, you can be excused for forgetting that particular term, can’t you?
I also was a tad disappointed about the lack of location in this book. In his previous books, you get accustom to travelling to deserts, cliffs, abandoned monasteries hidden in rock-faces, old libraries of the Vatican – well you get the picture. and when reading the blurb, you can picture deep South American rain forests, jungles, but sadly these hardly feature. It is a very urban book, with city-scapes, safe houses, biker garages etc. It’s not necessarily a huge downside, but I thought this gave to a slightly false blurb, and when the paperback was released with a different title (Second Time Around) with a different blurb and tag-line, I understood why.
There is no denying it however, The Devil’s Elixir is one exciting, thrilling, absorbing and you know what, fun-to-boot thriller. It has characters we’ve become familiar with and turned things even more authentic. This isn’t about chasing after religious and clandestine secrets anymore, this is a very real, very modern story. It’s all about characterisation and Khoury proves to pretty darn good at it. It has a few shocks along the way, as well as an original paranormal element too, which doesn’t cheapen the story, but rather strengthen it. If you are a fan of the Reilly and Tess Templar series, then I assure you, despite the deviation, you’ll enjoy this even more so, I did. This can even be read as a standalone novel too, so if you are just a fan of thrillers, action-orientated novels, then this will easily suit you.
The Devil’s Elixir/Second Time Around is available from:
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