The protagonist in Jeremy Chester’s new novel Smoke served in Viet Nam as a platoon sergeant in one of the Marine reconnaissance units, prior to the beginning of his postwar journey into chaos. Even with the benefit of his training in the Marine Reconnaissance units, the outcome of the story is constantly in doubt.
In the novel Smoke, the protagonist is a victim of circumstance, bunking with several former Marines just after separation, some of whom are dealing drugs. Jim Smyth, the protagonist, is scooped up by the Bureau of Narcotics (predecessor to the DEA) and offered undercover work to avoid defending himself and possibly being convicted along with the men who were actually trafficking. Problem is, he does so well undercover (exposing, and finally executing some of the narcos he was working with) that the only safe place for him upon completion of this service is within the Federal Witness Protection Program. He is assigned the code name Smoke, thus the title of the book.
Bad enough being buried in the witness program, but just as the book begins, he receives a letter saying simply, I know who you are, and this being in the early 1970s, when Nixon was in power and even U.S Attorney General John Mitchell eventually went to jail, he doesn’t trust the agents who put him in the program. He decides to go it alone and find out who is antagonist is, and take him down. He is convinced that the smugglers he spied on, at least the survivors, his present blood enemies, would never write him such a letter if they had found him. They would try to kill him, after some appropriate torture.
The rest of the novel is a wildly exciting pursuit: the hunter becomes the hunted, and they reverse roles repeatedly with complications that will keep the reader turning the pages. And the climax is shattering.
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