Power of the Dog Series – Don Winslow

There are three books in the series:

  • The Power of the Dog
  • The Cartel
  • The Border

The central characters are Art Keller, a US government official waging the war on drugs, and Adan Barrera, the major player in the Mexican drug underworld. Over the course of the three books, each of these characters is developed beyond the archetypal goodie and baddie, as the continual struggle to stem the drug tide is artlessly implemented by the governmental forces, helped – in the loosest sense of the word – by Keller’s somewhat unconventional approach.

The three books have it all: sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, as well as violence, love, betrayal, big business, corruption, and just about every theme relevant to modern society you can wish. Although fiction, it’s easy enough to connect the events portrayed, such as the status of drug kingpons in prison, the endemic corruption of the police and most authorities in Mexico, and so on.

It’s clear that Winslow has done his research and knows his subject. The authenticity means the backdrop becomes a non too silent character in the action, often allowing the bit part players to pop up and show the reader how the war on drugs pervades all aspects of society, especially in Mexico and the adjacent US States. It’s all too believable.

It’s also clear that Winslow has an understandable sympathy for these bit part players and the innocent civilians who are seemingly stuck in an impossible position. Their stories – rich in pathos and frustration –  are those of people born in the wrong place at the wrong time.

All of this would be for nothing were it not for the fact that Winslow is a great storyteller, and he manages to beautifully present the picture from multiple perspectives while maintaining the reader’s interest. The three books are one thumping good read. The plot is full of twists and turns, and the tension is skillfully wound up as required. In short, each of these is a real page turner. However, I do recommend reading them in order and one after the other to get the best out of them.

The only downside is that you might become depressed about the state of the war on drugs – indeed, you might question the necessity of it – as it would appear that whatever is happening, it’s not being won by the forces of proper law and order. There’s a debate to be had about how to deal with drugs in society, and reading these books would be a damn good primer about the challenges and the complexities.

Highly recommended.