Sunday, August 10, 2008

Kyle Mills: Rising Phoenix

Can we eliminate the drug problem in the US by poisoning the supply of illegal narcotics? That’s the central theme of Rising Phoenix a first novel by Kyle Mills. I recently re-read the book. And reminded myself of why I have bought several of his later books.

According to ex-DEA agent, John Hobart, poisoning the narcotics supply is the secret dream of many law-enforcement officers. It certainly seems that more traditional measures are not working. He convinces a “do-gooder” to fund the attempt, while maintaining his distance. It turns out that poisoning the drug supply is not a trivial matter. What poison will work, and not be noticed as drugs are distributed throughout their network? How can it be infiltrated high enough in the chain to make a significant difference? It turns out that John Hobart is about as cold and ruthless a character as we need to meet. He can solve these problems.

As the body counts start to rise, the FBI brings Mark Beamon back to Washington to head up the case. Although he is a top notch investigator, the Director of the FBI hates him. He may be more useful as a scapegoat if the FBI fails to stop the poisonings, than as a hero saving the day. The politics of the Federal Government trying to protect drug users is pretty interesting. Things get particularly dicey when the FBI gets a tip with details on an upcoming plan to poison a shipment in New York. Do they work with the Mafia Don to protect an illegal shipment?

If anyone wants to stop John Hobart more than the FBI, it’s Luis Colombar, a Columbian drug lord. The poisonings are seriously disrupting his profit margin. And he is every bit as ruthless as Hobart.

There is plenty of room for irony and strange bedfellows in Rising Phoenix. Drug use is down. Public support for poisoning is high enough to be politically challenging. So what’s a maverick FBI agent to do?

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