Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Book Review: "Smoke Screen" by Kyle Mills

Okay so I've now read all of Kyle Mills' books that feature FBI agent Mark Beamon, now what? Well, I now am reading his other books and "Smoke Screen" is one of them. While this book is not the thriller that the others are, it does keep you on the edge of your seat and anxious to turn the page to find out more.

This book is actually quite fun and some nice humor thrown in to a "What-If" situation. The what-if is; What if the tobacco companies all shut down and stopped producing the deadly products? Kyle Mills ponders this question and in the middle of telling a fun and interesting story gives a little lesson in civics. You see the government is so dependent on monies from the tobacco industry that while saving lives a lot of other lives would be put in harm's way and, most important to the government, lots of money would not be arriving in the political coffers they've come to depend on. These monies come in the form of taxed product, bribes/donations from the tobacco industry and even the people working in the industry.

So what would happen? This book offers one possible outcome and does so in a well researched way that it makes you stop and think about this crop that pretty much was highly influential in the development of the United States of America as a country back in the break from England.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys have finally found the weakness they’ve been searching for and filed a $200 billion lawsuit that the industry will be unable to appeal. America’s tobacco companies react by doing the unthinkable - they close their plants and recall their products from retailers’ shelves.

The book's hero, Trevor Barnett, is from a family who made the tobacco industry what it is. One of the most powerful industries and political decision makers. However Trevor is not a rich person. He lives off a trust that basically pays little until he's 60 then he gets a few million dollars to enjoy. But until then he must be in the constant employ of big tobacco. So he's got a mindless job in the company his family founded.

But now he's charged with the task of going on national television and making the announcement: Not another cigarette will be manufactured or sold until the industry is given ironclad protection from the courts. This all because he wanted to get fired. When asked to summarize the latest surgeon general's report for the CEO of the company, he simply writes "Tobacco still kills and we don't know what to do about it." This is the first time anyone has ever talked "straight" with the CEO, Paul Trainer. So through an inexplicable series of unwanted promotions, Trevor Barnett has become the lead spokesman for the tobacco industry just as it’s on the verge of extinction.

As the economy falters and chaos takes hold, Trevor becomes the target of enraged smokers, gun toting cigarette smugglers and a government that has been off from one of it’s largest sources of revenue. Soon it becomes clear that this has always been his function - to take the brunt of the backlash and shield the men in power from the maelstrom they’ve created.

While the author, Kyle Mills, is a great thriller writer, in this book he takes a different approach that makes this book fun. Lot's of humor, tongue in cheek pokes at pretty much everyone and to top it off it's told in first person with Trevor Barnett as the narrator.

This book is a fun read that may also jolt the brain into thinking about some interesting issues. Some great sarcasm here for folks that love it (like me).

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posted by Gil T. @ 9:55 PM Comments: 0