The Force – Don Winslow

This is a brutal novel about corruption in the New York police and elsewhere in society. The central character is a renegade policeman who is, in the vernacular, bent. Detective Sergeant Denny Malone and his merry men are supposed to fight to protect the citizens of New York from gangs, drugs and guns in New York. From his perspective, he’s not bent, just oiling the wheels of justice. He seems to ignore the hoard of drugs and cash he has accumulated from his just fight.

Of course, he is not the only bad apple in the barrel. And the baddies aren’t exactly noble citizens either. Unfortunately for Malone, his time may be up, as the FBI are moving in. And unfortunately for the city, at the same time there is something of a race war being threatened, arising out of a police shooting of a black man by a white policeman in suspicious circumstances. (All too familiar.)

The story follows Malone and his crew and their misadventures. It’s violent, fast paced and tense. The city backdrop is authentic, and the characterizations are good. The plot has less surprises than you might want, but is tight and does bring all the strands together. There are moments of pure pathos, and some of dark comedy. But above it all is the dark, dark cloud of corruption.

It’s not a book I would rush to recommend unless you like your fiction dark. Bad things happen to good people. But I enjoyed it, though I hope and pray it’s truly fiction and far removed from the reality.

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. Continue reading

Savages – Don Winslow

Setting: Laguna Bay, California, USA

Story: Ben does designer marijuana. Chon, his partner, is an ex SEAL and mercenary who handles the rough stuff. Ophelia is the love interest. Things are going well until the Mexican Baja Cartel signals that it wants in, and makes them an offer they cannot refuse. They refuse. And so starts the escalation of violence, despite Ben and Chon’s best intentions.

Good Stuff: Think Elmore Leonard with a twist of something special. Think sassy dialogue, snappy, sharp writing, action, violence, thrills, suspense, and sex. And drugs. What’s not to like?

More Good Stuff: the plot has its fair share of twists, and some of the cynical observations about the war on drugs, and the American Way of Life, are to the point, and thought provoking.

Even More Good Stuff: It’s great material for a good film.

Not So Good Stuff: They made the film. It’s not that good.

More Not So Good Stuff: Just how far can you go when it comes to suspending disbelief? In other words, at times this book borders on fantasy. (This may be intentional.) For example, the casual way in which certain characters turn into killers, and the free for all body count, are all tough to take. Also, some would also say it crosses the line into pornography, but I’m steering clear of that discussion for now.

But these blemishes cannot undermine what is a fine piece of entertainment. It’s a one sitting, full flavored, roller coaster of a read. I enjoyed it.

Score: 8.5/10