Off the Shelf: "The Alchemist"

by Marcus Pan

Chain Border

I'm not sure where this book came from, but I'm assuming the same place as the past two Piers Anthony's I reviewed here. Fortunately however, The Alchemist by Kenneth Goddard, was thoroughly more enjoyed than the Piers books. The Alchemist is a cop drama style story with a lot of high-action and drug and mob organizations thrown in for good measure. It builds to a great closing and is quite well researched as well, making it believable. Mr. Goddard is, after all, a forensic scientist.

I found some flaws in The Alchemist however. Such as the fact that it could have been shorter. While the novel did provide a lot of action, there were a few parts - most notably earlier in the novel - where it would drag a little more than necessary. It could have been edited down a bit with size in mind.

But there is a lot of action here. Most of the main characters are well created and thought out, Vietnam war veteran and hero cop Ben Koda being a favorite. A few could have been given a bit more depth - Lacotta the organized crime boss and Jimmy Pilgrim as well, for example. But they could be overlooked with more well drawn characters like Charley Shannon and Fogarty. Another problem with the book is it is rife with clichés, at least by today's standards. It was written in '85 however, and while I'm not sure when Miami Vice started airing, it might be a forerunner instead of a carrier of such clichés.

The gist of the story is that a new drug has been developed. Showing superior intellect in the forensics and illicit substance areas, Goddard takes us on a whirlwind through the creation and production of a new hallucinogenic drug. However, this one hasn't been thought of yet - so the Mind Rainbow, as it's become known as, is actually legal for the time being. While this is going on, a DEA task force step in to try and infiltrate the Californian organized crime family of Jake Locotta - and most specifically in the area controlled by his underling Jimmy Pilgrim, as a means to take down as many high-rankers in the group in a drug buy sting. But when Mind Rainbow gets going things get out of hand - and a key fun point of the book is that the DEA force wasn't going in for anything related to a new drug, so they get mixed up in the crime family's upheaval as that gets underway.

With a few small bumps, such as it shouldn't have taken me this long to read for one, The Alchemist is a well written crime drama. It's highly believable, has some interesting characters and an excellent wrap up ending.

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Buy The Alchemist

"The Alchemist" by Kenneth Goddard
Published by Bantam Books, Inc.
Copyright © 1985 by Kenneth Goddard
ISBN 0-553-25598-3

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