Khoury seeds his modern-day thriller with the centuries-old secrets yielded by a culture long known for its embrace of both the physical and spiritual realms. Entrusted to the wisdom of shamans trained in the use of hallucinogens as a path to spiritual awakening, such knowledge is shrouded in mystery, protected by tribes living far from the intrusiveness of civilization.
In 1770s Mexico, a Jesuit’s discovery of a potent substance he calls “the Devil’s Elixir” begins a chain of events that culminates in bloodshed, a swath of violence along coastal California, the mysterious kidnappings of scientists doing cutting-edge research in psychoparmacology, a home invasion/murder and attempted abduction, and a shoot-out in a San Diego hotel parking lot, followed by a joint investigation by the FBI, DEA and assorted law enforcement agencies.
The driving force behind the mayhem is Raoul Navarro--“El Brujo” (the sorcerer)--whose pursuit of the Jesuit’s “elixir” is relentless and stunningly brutal, a scourge that proves nearly impossible to derail. Drawn into the fray by his terrified ex-girlfriend, former DEA agent Michelle Martinez, FBI agent Sean Reilly responds to her desperate cry for help after a group of armed men bursts into her home in a hail of bullets. On the run with her four-year-old son, Alex, Michelle waits for Sean’s arrival in San Diego, where the violence unexpectedly accelerates, leaving a biker club completely annihilated, a string of corpses, and an FBI agent determined to end the menace that has suddenly disrupted his life.
Featuring an eclectic group of characters—agents and department heads from his past adventures, tough biker gangs hired as mercenaries and drug mules, an alphabet soup of government agencies, and Reilly’s current love, anthropologist Tess Chaykin—the cat-and-mouse game between El Brujo and his prey escalates with an innocent child at the center, a madman with a dream about to accomplish his lifetime mission and unleash a drug with devastating potential on the world market.
The plot requires an open mind and a willingness to tolerate coincidences and often a suspension of plausibility, but the action is as fast-paced as a train hurtling down the tracks with no brakes. El Brujo’s goal is too terrible to succeed, the trail of mangled corpses he leaves behind in his relentless pursuit of his obsession like a blood-saturated exclamation point. Khoury’s thriller does not pretend to be anything more than it is. As such, it meets all the requirements of an inevitable, violent confrontation between a particularly monstrous villain and those sworn to protect the innocent.
In a world on the frontier of technological advances and the untested power of psycopharmacology, the battle lines have already been drawn. The renegade El Brujo proves the vulnerability of defense and the threat to innocent bystanders. Khoury does leave us with a troubling question to ponder: who will protect us from our protectors?