ATF Special Agent Alex Duarte thinks he’s chasing Panamanian pot—if only it were that simple.
Convinced that the small-time druggie he has in custody can be a link to big-time druggies, Duarte is working him hard. He’s right, of course, and soon enough bottom-feeder Byron Gastlin gives up his Panamanian supplier, wicked Mr. Ortíz, whose capacity for sadistic cruelty has its roots in 19th-century melodrama, and whose grudge against the United States has been festering ever since the 1989 Panamanian invasion. Mr. Ortíz is the kingpin of a flourishing drug business, but as Duarte will learn, that operation is merely a means to an end. Like Snidely Whiplash and James Bond’s antagonists, Mr. Ortíz wants revenge, and now, at last, he has access to the means to turn his personal vengeance into Armageddon. Mr. Ortíz is as slippery as he is black-hearted. For a while, he fools Duarte into thinking he’s an ally and leads him down diverse garden paths and blind alleys. But few can be proof against a combination of Rambo and Dudley Do-Right, and once again Duarte gets his man, nips a conspiracy in the bud and earns the thanks of a grateful nation.
Comic-strip villains and a protagonist whose habits have ossified into routine are formidable hurdles even for a storyteller as talented as Born (Field of Fire, 2007, etc.).