The Devil’s Elixir

by Raymond Khoury


What if there was a a drug, previously lost to history in the jungles of Central American capable of inducing an experience so momentous – and so shocking – that it might shake the foundations of Western Civilization?

Sounds exciting, right?

I love a good Indian Jones-style adventure on occasion. That was how I discovered James Rollins, who writes in a similar vein to Raymond Khoury. I have previously read books by Khoury, so when I saw this one, it sound enthralling.

Sometimes I pick up a book and I find it difficult to get in the habit of reading it. One possible reason for this is that the book doesn’t have a great hook. A book that is gripping from the very opening keeps me reading, of course, but I won’t put down a book simply because it might have a slow start. Some stories take a little longer to build and in some cases the wait is worth it.

That was not the case with this novel.

The Devil’s Elixir is 508 pages long. At 165 pages, I gave up. To that point, I still had not encountered any elements that directly involved this mysterious drug or the jungles of Central America. Almost a third of the way through and the author was still setting the stage for the upcoming plot. I was introduced to a dozen characters from three different POVs. I learned of the romantic relationship between two of these characters that lead to an illegitimate child. This child was causing discomfort for the protagonist who was now in a serious relationship with someone else. And the antagonist, who used to be a drug dealer, had undergone extensive plastic surgery to change his face and his identity.

There were, of course, other plot points established. I assume these plot points were supposed to be important and notable factors that came into play later in the book, but isn’t one third of the book later enough to actually start the story?

The point is, I read 165 pages and nothing had really happened yet. When a book is this long and involved, the author needs to give the reader incentive (and confidence) that their precious time will be rewarded with an interesting and involving read.

The incentive was there – I was reeled in by the promise of gripping adventure – but the payout wasn’t. I quickly lost confidence and the book lost my interest.

My precious time was not well-invested in reading this novel.