One of America’s supposed secrets becomes the backdrop of this thriller.
It has long been rumored that the CIA used raw opium to finance covert operations against the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. In this tale, the CIA recruits botanist Bill Murphy, just out of college, to help the agency produce opium in the area of Southeast Asia known as the “Golden Triangle.” When the policy of Vietnamization catches Bill by surprise, he gets rescued by Special Ops soldier David Anderson, the man who will become his partner for life. After the CIA leaves Bill high and dry a second time, in Afghanistan, he and David become “producers,” converting the raw opium into 99 percent pure China White heroin, which they supply to the triad network in Hong Kong, to be distributed worldwide. Bill handles the product while David takes care of the finances. But after a time, it becomes obvious that someone in the triad wants to displace them from the supply chain. The pair ends up on the radar of the U.S. military’s drug-eradication mission as well. The two decide to strike back after friends and loved ones are killed. They pit the triad and the military against each other and escape. But their plan to sail off into the sunset on their superyacht fails because there are too many people who still want them dead. As David tells Bill: “Every time we relax and start to feel normal, we will constantly be looking at our sixes, because they will always be one step behind us and forever in our shit.” So they undertake one last mission. Grant (Mahdi, 2016, etc.) impressively brings readers inside a dark, dirty world of drugs and money. The author has created likable antiheroes in Bill and David, who belatedly grow consciences. The danger-packed novel is well-researched with plenty of details, especially about the military gear being employed. One drawback is the book could have used more thorough editing, with capitalization and punctuation errors throughout inhibiting the generally smooth-flowing narrative (for example, “He loved anything related to plant life was already accustomed to the humidity in Michigan and he didn’t ask a lot of questions”). But overall, this is an absorbing, heart-wrenching tale.
An engrossing look at two morally ambivalent men confronting foes who are greedier and deadlier than they are.