SMOKESCREEN by Paul William Roberts


One Man Against the Underground
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Fascinating account of an American recruited as an undercover agent by—of all things—the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to expose and bring down an international crime complex.

Globe-roaming writer/filmmaker Roberts and screenwriter Snider have found an unlikely focus for international crime: the Canadian Mohawk Indian Reserve at Kahnawake, a few miles from downtown Montreal. One of the troubles lies in the tax structure imposed on tobacco products by both U.S. and Canadian governments. Upshot: smugglers moving DNP (Duty Not Paid) cigarettes through the reservation—whose native inhabitants are exempted by Canadian law from paying the taxes—can make up to $500,000 per truckload. Then there’s liquor, known to organized crime from as far away as Moscow as the source of a concentrated cash flow that makes a solid foundation for “arms deals, drug deals, people-smuggling deals, counterfeit deals”—every conceivable kind of illicit trafficking. Into this milieu comes a small-town, upstate New Yorker, C. Calvin Broeker, surviving failed marriages and a failed grocery business—a real run of bad luck, the authors stress—whose imposing height, size and demeanor (the writers insist that he thinks of himself, via German ancestry, as some kind of reborn Teutonic warrior) win him the affections of Elizabeth, an influential member of the Mohawk tribe, and a place in her bed on the reservation. Unbeknownst to all, Cal has signed on with the RCMP as an undercover agent to set up meets and buys, etc., in which bad guys of every stripe—Mohawk smugglers, biker gangs, Soviet bloc mafia—can be trapped. A string of hair-raising adventures follows, with Cal ranging as far as Bulgaria to actually sign a contract for industrial steel products, though ultimately he grows frustrated and disillusioned by the law’s inability to keep pace with the criminals.

Overwrought detective fiction style, lapsing occasionally into parody, doesn’t obscure a gripping tale.

Pub Date: May 31st, 2005
ISBN: 1-55192-691-1
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Polestar/Raincoast
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2005


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