From Publishers Weekly
Roberto Escobar provides an intimate portrait of his brother, Pablo Escobar, the infamous leader of the Medellin drug cartel. He makes a strenuous—if not entirely persuasive—effort to reveal his brother's more sensitive side and to argue that the Colombian and U.S. governments exaggerated the degree of Pablo's involvement in the cartel. The book's organization is spotty and the familial bias often frustrates—listeners will likely crave a more unvarnished biography—but Ruben Diaz provides an unimpeachable performance. With an authentic, never grating accent, he narrates so sincerely that the audience might believe they are listening to Roberto himself. A Grand Central hardcover. (Feb.)
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By the time of his death at the hands of a special squad of Colombian police in 1993, Pablo Escobar controlled a multibillion-dollar cocaine-based empire that corrupted police, the military, and high-ranking politicians. His older brother, Roberto, served as the financial guru of this empire, deciding how to save, hide, and distribute vast sums of cash to maintain and nurture the so-called Medellín cartel. Escobar, who served a 10-year prison sentence for his cartel activities, certainly provides a unique and often deeply personal perspective. His description of his childhood with Pablo may help explain but does not justify the way Pablo consistently resorted to unrestrained violence against any opposition. Colombia in the 1950s was in the throes of chronic political violence on a massive scale, with roving factional gangs engaging in murderous raids and counter-raids. Still, Escobar’s frequent efforts to “explain” (or even justify) Pablo’s outrages that killed numerous innocents quickly become tiresome and morally repugnant. When his narrative sticks to the nuts-and-bolts process of his brother’s relentless, ruthless construction of a gigantic and effective criminal organization, this is an engrossing and morbidly fascinating tale filled with intrigue, betrayal, and stunning amounts of cash. At its best, this is a real-life story of the rise and fall of a violent and vile man. --Jay Freeman