57 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent capsule history of the failed war on drugs
Don Winslow's latest book (after _California Fire and Life_), _The Power of the Dog_, is an epic look at the US war on drugs from its earliest beginnings to more recent times. The book is violent and thrilling and heart-breaking, as it follows a large cast of characters from the early 1970s through 2004, showing how the competing interests and agendas of various...
Published on June 6, 2005 by Craig Larson
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gripping story, terrible spelling
The plot is beautifully developed and I couldn't stop reading it!
However, I must say the Kindle edition has ample room for improvement. There were typos all over, and not one Spanish word was spelt right. Definitely not worth the money, I thought I was paying for an edited, published book, but the Kindle edition certainly is not. I haven't read any book by...
Published on February 1, 2011 by Paula
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57 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent capsule history of the failed war on drugs,
Don Winslow's latest book (after _California Fire and Life_), _The Power of the Dog_, is an epic look at the US war on drugs from its earliest beginnings to more recent times. The book is violent and thrilling and heart-breaking, as it follows a large cast of characters from the early 1970s through 2004, showing how the competing interests and agendas of various government agencies (the CIA, the DEA, etc.) get in the way of successfully combatting the problem, and often only served to make things much worse.
Art Keller, the book's protagonist, is a half-Hispanic DEA agent who grew up in the San Diego barrio and saw the effects of drugs on his friends and family firsthand. As a rookie agent, he makes the mistake of befriending Don Miguel Angel Barrera, one of the top Mexican policemen, in an effort to topple the reigning drug kingpin. Barrera proceeds to move into the subsequent power vacuum and sets up La Federaccion, a much more well-organized and deadly organization than previously existed, and run by his two nephews, the intelligent and sensitive Adan, and the flashy and violent Raul.
This sets in motion a 30-year vendetta on Keller's part, as he attempts to take down the Barreras and atone for his mistake, a vendetta that will lead to the deaths of numerous innocent parties along the way, and to Keller's estrangement from his own wife and children.
The book was a very fast-moving, though extremely violent novel. In a little over 500 pages, Winslow does an amazing job of encapsulating a lot of recent history, including the Camarena murder, the Iran-Contra scandal, and other related events, into a very readable and entertaining novel, one of the best I've read recently. If you're not too squeamish, I'd highly recommend the book.
42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A Farmer in the Fields of the Dead",
I find two varieties of five-star reads. Page-turners both, there are those that hit you like the best action movies - a quick rush, great fun while they last, a lightning shot of adrenaline - and all but forgotten a month or so down the road. And then there are the very special books that deliver all the thrills, the action, all the suspense while at the same searing an unshakable image in your soul that you know will stay with you for a very long time. Don Winslow's remarkable "Power of the Dog" is firmly in the latter camp.
Contemporary history buffs my remember US DEA Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena who, while assigned in Mexico in 1985, was abducted, tortured, and brutally murdered by Mexican drug lords. While Winslow changes the names, the events leading to and subsequent to Camarena's murder play a central role in this epic tale of the violence, corruption, love, betrayal, and vengeance surrounding three decades worth of the trafficking of cocaine and heroine by Mexican drug cartels. So grand in scope, so exhaustively researched, and so authoritative in its delivery of the facts, and comparisons or analogies are strained. But for a starter, consider a role up of "Traffic", "The Godfather", and "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia". Winslow manages to demystify the shady politics and clandestine operations of Nicaragua and the Sandanistas and the Iran-Contra affair, the 1994 assassination of Mexican Presidential candidate Luis Colosio, NAFTA and others in enough detail to qualify as a docudrama, while the unspeakable brutality, depravity, and evil that travels alongside the drug trade is, well, plainly spoken. Winslow weaves tight story lines from Mexico's deserts and poppy fields to the Tijuana/San Diego borderland battlegrounds to New York City's Hell's Kitchen and Bensonhurst. His characters are much too real to be expected between the pages of pop fiction - all too believable in their flaws, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and failures.
In the end, it would not be giving anything away to say that the vaunted war on drugs is ultimately a war of futility. Drugs pour into the US in ever-greater quantities while drug lords get richer and the American taxpayer pours increasingly more money to fund corrupt politicians and dubious strategies. Notwithstanding, "The Power of the Dog" is a powerful and unapologetic tale of bitter fatalism, of redemption that rings ultimately hollow. If you are squeamish, or intend to keep naive delusions of our "noble" fight against drugs intact, this is probably not the book for you. But for what is bound to become a classic, plumbing the depths of evil in this dark history we'd probably all prefer to ignore, you simply must read this novel.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars (4.5) "Deliver my soul from the sword",
"El poder del perro"; The Power of the Dog. This novel delivers a healthy dose of reality, shadowing drug enforcement agencies, from the poppy fields of South America to the Mexican border. Laced with the politics of self-deception and political agendas, much goes unreported and unacknowledged as the US continues indefensible relationships with despots who perpetuate the violence of a drug-related economy.
Against this background, one figure traces the advances of the drug economy. Since Operation Condor in Sinaloa in 1975, Art Keller has been tracking the drug industry's recurring faces. A Company Man, Keller is one of the "lost, the lonely, the cultural misfits with a foot in two worlds and a place in neither, half-Anglo and Half-Mexican". North American fire power and munitions meet South American business-as-usual, a disheartening mix of military power in the hands of the politically untouchable who decimate the country's economy in pursuit of profit. Keller pursues one small corner of this world, but he does so doggedly, revealing the complicated infrastructure and government involvement along the US-Mexican border.
Keller is infected with guilt; he once was duped by the man who is now a key player, Miguel Angel Barrera. But Keller handles most of his business outside of the purview of the government agencies, a lethal alphabet soup of DEA, FBI and ATF, all committed to keeping a lid on the current problems. Art believes all Third World slums are the same, "the same mud or dust, depending on climate or season, the same smells of charcoal stoves and open sewers...malnourished kids with distended bellies and big eyes". At least in Guadalajara, the middle class softens the edge between rich and poor. Not so in the South American countries, reduced to abject poverty and a tiny percentage of ultra-rich. South America is a killing ground, where the poor are slaughtered with impunity.
Following the corruption endemic to the drug trade, from Operation Condor in Sinaloa in1975, Guadalajara in 1984, El Salvador in 1985, Mexico and NAFTA in 1992 through the late nineties, is like descending the levels of Hell, each more complicated and fraught with moral indictments, the exorbitant cost of the lesser of two evils, where moral ambiguity becomes the coin of the realm. Art Keller's personal journey, navigating this particular nightmare, illustrates how deeply flawed is the attempt to control illegal substances.
This kind of fiction serves a dual purpose: it entertains and informs. While Winslow writes a fascinating fiction of drug trafficking and those it touches so intimately, he also exposes the agencies who have failed to control the uncontrollable, yielding a massacre of thousands in the name of profit, a system of bribery and corruption so endemic that each layer only reveals another, a mix of murderers and drug lords who act with impunity to protect a way of life. In a blistering indictment of the War on Drugs, American support of Third World guerillas financed by the illegal narcotics trade and the easy greed of officials who sell their accommodation to the highest bidder, Winslow spins a powerful yarn that is both informative and disturbing: "The hardest thing in the world isn't to refrain from committing an evil, it's to stand up and stop one." Luan Gaines/2005.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars takes hold like a pit bull,
Power of the dog grabs hold of you like a pit bull at your throat and will not let go .Well after you have read this book it lingers .News stories from the past decades fit like pieces of a puzzle. From the kidnapping and killing of a U.S DEA agent, to the shooting death of cardinal Ocampo in Mexico, to the shooting death of Mafia boss Paul Castellano.Not to mention the number of those whose lives seem go by unnoticed .The Power of the dog pulls you into a world you may rather not know of, one you will surely not forget .It is beautifully written compelling, full of insight, and it is relentless .I fear much contained within this book may not be truly fiction, but fictionalized.This book hits the spot for a page turner at 500 pages you will go through them very quickly .This book is violent, and You will feel the violence. This is not a stylized glamorous violance but true wicked and dirty. Winslow takes us someplace that will make us uncomfortable and we follow in quick step there is no let up and you are through the looking glass in no time.This is not glamour but grit and grit stays with you for a while it gets into all kinds of places .For the genre this may be the best book of its kind I have ever read.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Winslow at His Best!,
Don Winslow has been my favorite fiction author since I began reading as an adult (i.e., not assigned), and he has not disappointed me with this book. Unlike The Death and Life of Bobby Z. and California Fire & Life, The Power of the Dog takes a little more than the first five pages to pull a reader in, but it has wonderul character development, intensity that kept me turning pages, and one of the most brutal chapters of fiction I have ever read.
The story follows the career of DEA Agent and former CIA operative in Vietnam Art Keller. Keller's career with the DEA was made by a Mexican police officer, Tio Barrea, who later became a drug kingpin in Mexico, thanks largely and unknowingly to Keller eliminating his competition through his work with the DEA. When Kelly discovers how Tio has manipulated their relationship, he dedicates the rest of his career to bringing Tio down, at a huge cost to his personal and professional lives, and to the lives of those around him.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Winslow's Tour de Force,
I'm pretty stingy when it comes to issuing 5 star ratings but The Power of the Dog is a genuine tour de force. It's an ambitious novel, epic in scope, providing a cynical look at 30 years of the US War on Drugs.
The story follows the lives of a large cast of characters from San Diego to New York City to Mexico to Central America. The characters are on both sides of the law, including a DEA agent trying to atone for a mistake early in his career, the head of the powerful Federaccion in Mexico and his ambitious nephews, a high priced call girl, an unconventional Roman Catholic priest, a small-time Hell's Kitchen hood turned hit man, shady CIA operatives, the mob, central American drug cartels, communist rebels, and corrupt officials.
Winslow conducted years of research for this novel and has incorporated numerous historical events. In many cases the characters in the novel are either loosely based on, or are a composite of real people. The torture and murder of a US DEA agent in the novel is based in large part on the similar abduction and brutal murder of Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena. Father Prada is loosely based on the real life and death of Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, a Mexican bishop of the Catholic Church who was shot `by mistake' in an airport parking lot by drug cartels. The novel incorporates the 1985 Mexico City Earthquake, the Iran-Contra affair, the 1994 assassination of Mexican Presidential candidate Luis Colosio, and NAFTA. The novel seamlessly blends fact and fiction and manages to demystify some of the shady politics and clandestine operations related to US involvement in Nicaragua and its futile war on drugs.
This is a novel that succeeds on all levels. It's a page turner, even at more than 500 pages. It's well researched and provides fascinating insight into the drug cartels, the futile effort to stop the flow of drugs into the US, the role of the Catholic Church in the drug war, and atrocities committed in an effort to quash communist uprisings in Central America. Winslow's prose is lean, but effective. The characters are flawed and fully realized human beings. This is a complex novel. There is no clear right or wrong. It's a world of `lesser evils' and `sacrifices made for the greater good'. There are no easy answers in The Power of the Dog. The long suffering DEA agent finally realizes his career-long goal, but whatever victory he has is hollow. The price paid and the personal sacrifices made, in the end, outweigh the futile effort.
This is an exceptional novel but it may not be for everyone. I've enjoyed a number of Winslow's other novels, but aside from the writing style; they have little in common with this novel. The other novels I've read have been considerably lighter in tone. This is a much more ambitious novel and may not appeal to anyone expecting lighter fare. This is also a novel that is not for the squeamish. It's extremely violent. It's brutal and cruel. People are tortured. Innocent children are savagely murdered. It's not always easy to read. And finally, some people may be turned off by the politics of the novel. Winslow is critical of the US Government's role in Central America, NAFTA and the futility of the War on Drugs. If your politics lean far to the right, and you're convinced in the noble necessity of the War on Drugs, The Power of the Dog may not appeal to you.
In my opinion though, this is a powerful novel that delivers the goods. It's an enlightening, compelling read, and it's the kind of novel that stays with you long after you've finished it. It's one of the best novels I've read. Highly recommended.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Novel I've Read This Year,
I hadn't heard of Don Winslow until recently, when I checked out Power Of The Dog from my local library. Wow! I can't believe Winslow hasn't been getting more critical acclaim. This guy is in the same league as James Ellroy and Michael Connelly. Power Of The Dog is an epic treatment of the war on drugs with a complexity of plot and character that is riveting. And Winslow has become a beautiful writer. Certainly a nominee for best novel of 2005.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Winslow's magnum opus?,
I picked up a couple Winslow books years ago at the bookstore, but for some reason I couldn't get into them. Then I read Dawn Patrol recently and really liked it. Didn't blow me away, but it's solid crime fiction with grit and humor.
The Power of the Dog, on the other hand, is a friggin' great novel.
It's a worthy depiction of a complex and divisive subject (the so-called War on Drugs), often going into layers of detail that will leave your head spinning. Winslow did his research in spades and the book is entertaining both as a visceral crime novel and as historical fiction.
Winslow doesn't shy away from the gore and the Americans' complicity in bringing it all to fruition (let's face it, our intelligence community has a filthy history). The subject may be tough for some to swallow, but as a fan of James Ellroy's American Tabloid, I couldn't get enough.
The only criticism I would offer is that some of the regional patois comes off as a little forced (Mafioso talk, New York Hells Kitchen Irish-American, etc.), but this is a minor point, as the momentum of the novel carried me forward and soon I adapted to Winslow's attempts at different narrative voices.
This is one of the best crime novels I've ever read. Can't recommend it highly enough. I just hope I get as much enjoyment out of Winslow's other novels. I'll be reading them for sure after this.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Join the Don Winslow Fan Club,
Power of the Dog packs the punch, twist, and edge everyone should be looking for out of a good Crime novel!
This was the first Don Winslow book I had read. Since devouring Power of the Dog I have read other Don Winslow novels and he has become one of my favorites!
This book is for anyone who wants to get their heart pumping. Tough book to put down, missed my train stop twice. I have recomended this book to friends and they have paid it forward! Once you read this you will be back at Amazon.com to get other Winslow novels. (Try Winter of Frankie Machine, you'll love it too.)
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but could have been great,
First of all, I did enjoy Don Winslow's "Power of the Dog." It has some important, and I think very relevant and true things to say about the failure of the so-called "War on Drugs" to do anything except enrich those who ply the trade (although the author does not quite make the comparison explicit, the current "War on Terror" can easily be seen as a rerun of this failure). The plot is grounded in recent history, such as the abduction and torture of a DEA agent several years ago, the rise of the Mexican drug cartels, the U.S. involvement in Mexican politics, and the baleful effects of American meddling. On the whole, Winslow's interpretations of this history seem valid and important. As a thriller, it does not disappoint, and anyone seeking a good airplane or beach read will not be disappointed.
However, the author has been ill-served by his publisher. A good editor could have slimmed down this 540 or so pages by 100-150 or so without losing any of the intricate plot or much of the background. The writing quickly veers into bestseller-type bloat and sentimentality. The characters are not well developed, and sloppily described. The author seems to have strange clothes and food obsessions, always a short-cut to character development. We always get to know what even the most minor character has for breakfast and what they wear in every scene. We get 2-3 pages on a seedy San Diego motel, a canned tour trip of Hong Kong, and when some characters are on the run, we get the complete eight lines of their grocery list. The sentimentality weakens the book tremendously: we always know who the author likes and who he doesn't, and know well in advance that the latter will soon come to an unpleasant end. There's as much emotional string-pulling going on as in a Disney movie, most of it to little effect, as almost all the characters are unlikeable.
In a purportedly realistic thriller, the details are important, but a lot of them are questionable or just plain wrong. Everyone about to be offed suddenly acts very dumb just before they get it. A scene with someone on a Harley chasing and shooting three pistoleros in a BMW at 80 m.p.h. is simply laughable (don't try this at home!). The Chinese would nver have a high-ranking official in a shed with a pistol holding a hostage over an arms deal; surely they've heard of electronic funds transfer. And the lights of Tijuana do not "twinkle and wink" from San Diego's Shelter Island. And on and on.
But, these serious quibbles aside, I hope this gets a wide readership, as it has some valid points to make, as well as being superior entertainment.
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The Power of the Dog (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) by Don Winslow