SMOKE SCREEN by Kyle Mills


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Funny, near-credible fantasy about an unlikely hero who takes on Big Tobacco and cuts it down to size.

Terra Holding Corporation, the tobacco colossus widely viewed as “the last word in corporate evil,” employs, in a lowly, computer-nerdish capacity, one Trevor Barnett, whose great-great-great-grandfather once walked tall in the industry. Not so, Trevor, of course, whose natural inclination is to cower. Or if not precisely that, at least to blend in so effectively as to give fresh meaning to the phrase “protective coloration.” A “whiny putz,” says Paul Trainer, Terra Corp’s CEO, dismissively. But he’s wrong. There are two sides to Trevor. For one thing, he’s smart. For another, he has a certain inner—deeply inner—fortitude that blocks the easy hypocrisy so prevalent in his family history. What he lacks is self-regard—until, that is, the lovely and estimable Anne Kimball decides to take him in hand. As a staunchly idealistic member of SY (Smokeless Youth), she is at first distinctly anti-Trevor. Still, she’s the one who sees in him what there is to see and, having fallen in love despite herself, lights a fire under him. Interestingly enough, Trevor does have a point of view. Acknowledging that tobacco is quite as harmful as its worst critics say it is, he insists that “the question we need to answer isn’t whether Americans should smoke; it’s whether they should be allowed to smoke”: in other words, it’s a question of self-determination, of personal liberty. How this vaults him into a position of power, befuddles his enemies, wins him his girl, makes him rich, and reshapes Big Tobacco forever is the burden of a wry, sly Frank Capra–esque tale.

Fast, lively, provocative. If at resolution time Mills (Burn Factor, 2001, etc.) blows a little smoke, you’ll at least have been thoroughly entertained.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-399-15098-6
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2003


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