SMOKE SCREEN

Kyle Mills, Author . Putnam $24.95 (349p) ISBN 978-0-399-15098-2

With this sixth novel in as many years (following last year's Sphere of Influence), Mills departs from his usual suspense thriller format of mass murder, conspiracy and terrorist threat. What he presents instead is a timely and chilling tale hinging on the power of Big Tobacco to bring the American government and economy to a standstill. Trevor Barnett, 32, is heir to a giant tobacco conglomerate called Terra. He is also a lazy ne'er-do-well who works for the company only because his trust payments are tied to his employment in the tobacco industry. He knows cigarette smoking kills people, but doesn't really care, believing that smokers have the right to make their own decisions. The tobacco industry is about to lose a $250-billion class-action lawsuit, a judgment the industry cannot appeal. Such a ruling will permanently bankrupt all of the tobacco companies, and Terra's ruthless CEO, Paul Trainer, is not about to let that happen. After making some snappy and irreverent comments at a board meeting, Trevor suddenly and unwillingly finds himself spearheading a tobacco offensive that shakes the nation. Big Tobacco closes all its plants and recalls all its tobacco products in a clever game of chicken, facing down the courts, Congress, the White House and the antismoking lobby. The result is a catastrophic loss of tax revenue and political donations, and an angry population of smoking voters who want their cigarettes back. The novel's plot is carefully crafted and original, filled with corporate and political intrigue, treachery, betrayal and the complex backroom deals that keep big companies humming along. With a refreshing lack of sanctimony, Mills turns the tobacco wars into grist for an absorbing business thriller. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/11/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 400 pages - 978-0-451-21278-8
Hardcover - 568 pages - 978-0-7862-6050-8
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-06-052042-7
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-06-052040-3
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4498-8670-7
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