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Showing 11-20 of 654 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 807 reviews
on July 23, 2017
Wow! That's all I can say. I haven't read such an intense, honest, yet brutal novel in a long, long time. Don Winslow nailed this one - I will definitely be buying CARTEL and THE FORCE. **Foul language and brutal violence abound; but given the subject matter, I was able to overlook it and truly enjoy a wonderfully written eye-opener on just how twisted this game of drugs really is.
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on August 6, 2017
What a great book. I heard all the acclaim about Winslow's new book so thought I'd go back and read this one first. It's hard to tell fact from fiction in this book and Uncle Sam is probably guilty of quite a bit of the things written in this book but it's our love of drugs that makes it all possible...were that it wasn't so...
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on March 14, 2016
An engaging novel about the drug trade, spanning multiple families, characters, locales and decades. Very well written, if you are OK with the violence and sex. I was. What I especially enjoy about Winslow's writing is that, although he writes in third person, he will shift perspective slightly and briefly to first person to deepen the impact of an incident on the character, often for just one sentence. Very well done. I gave the novel 4 stars because of the character development, the story --I could not put it down--and the ingenious writing style. I highly recommend the book and I look forward to reading Winslow's next book in the sequel, The Cartel.
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A complex, dense read populated with believable characters and illustrating the horrors of the drug wars in Mexico. Art Keller is a great protagonist, driven, violent, purposeful, and on the side of the angels. Adrian Barerra is a complex character, who sometimes seems more a victim of circumstance than a true criminal...until he commits an unforgivable act. This book has set the characters (both he good guy and the bad guy) on the path of self destruction. A must read for Winslow fans
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on October 7, 2015
This book is truly a rollercoaster ride. And yes, you better have time to read it once you start because it will be hard to put it down. I didn't think he could keep it up throughout the book but he does and he leaves you actually wishing it was longer.
Having read both Savages and The Kings of Cool, this book is totally different in style. I felt like Don Winslow had grown up. But I was never disappointed. At all. Although I recommend you read those books first because they feel lighter, like a young writer having fun, while this one feels like an adult writer, still having fun but somehow with gravitas, as the subject matter deserves.
Also, this is a work of fiction but if you know anything about history and the WODs, it feels entirely plausible that this is the way it went down. Isn't that magical? Heck, if I was a writer I'd be both upset and thankful; the former because how can I top this guy's writing or even get to his level? The latter because he shows me that it can be done!
I could go on for a while but I'll end it by saying that you won't be disappointed at all with this book. I'm not advertising for Amazon. I'm giving my opinion about the book and about Don Winslow. I don't care how or where you get the book. Just read it and have all the fun that books promise.
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on March 7, 2014
Loyalty is not an American virtue, said the cartel boss. Still, he knows full well that he wouldn't be rich without that war.
This is political/historical crime fiction, not mystery... Nothing mysterious here. If you want to know more about the background of this American idiocy, the War on Drugs, this is a place to go. Assuming it tells the truth.
But there is a mystery in the title. It seems to be taken from a Kipling poem about a dog's power to tear our hearts. I can't figure it out for a long time.

One message of this brutal 500 page book could be summarized as 'the war on drugs is a sequel of and substitute for the Vietnam war'. Fought by some of the same people (central character is Art Keller, a DEA officer, a Vietnam veteran from the CIA), with similar methods in comparable social situations: in cooperation with local officialdom ( now Mexico and Central American countries) who might or might not be corrupt, against an enemy with unclear borderlines, in changing coalitions and partnerships. Using defoliants on Vietnamese jungles, Mexican poppies, or Colombian coca.
Art Keller happens to be a mostly honest cop. See where that gets him. He tries to fight the drug lords and misses the political dimensions for much too long.

Time span is 1970s to 90s. Organized crime revolving around drug businesses in the US. Irish and Italian, Mexican, Columbian, others. Globalization' s ugliest face. Plus some of the classiest faces, players in world class prostitution. The basics of low life on a high plain.
Plus politics and high level quid pro quos. US administrations don't look too good here, making pacts with the devil, i. e. the cartels, for shady fights against political opponents, the Sandinistas and similar rebel movements. Opening up American drug markets in return for arms supply to the rebels or their opponents. Whatever the wind brings.
Art Keller, when he finally gets the picture, can't make up his mind whether this is an absurd obscenity or an obscene absurdity.

This is either the plain sad truth or an oversized conspiracy theory. I tend to think the former. This kind of fiction is problematic though. Factual truth should be transported by non fiction, ideally, but that has less publicity value. Fiction should be the domain of general truths, not of propaganda.
While this is a great read, I have these doubts about it. I enjoyed it enough for 5 stars, but can't ignore the weaknesses.
Winslow is a gifted writer with story spinning skills. His historical research seems plausible. Some of his chapters, like the Mexico City earthquake narration, would be strong even as stand alone texts.
He does tend to work with stereotypes though. The super-smart super-whore with the golden heart. The deadly Mick assassin from Hell's Kitchen trying to be a simple carpenter with a family life... An ideal couple. We know these people. They live in the world of pulp.
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on July 15, 2015
pretty good book considering the author hijacked the lives of the Westies and Gambino crime families and put it in this book. One example is when the mobster Peaches talkes about how his crime boss Big Paulie buys a penis pump to use with his maid, which in fact happened in real life with Gambino crime boss Big Paul Castellano. The mob soldiers in this book also complain about how Big Paulie, who they consider to be a white collar businessman is made boss of the family instead of their Underboss, who they feel is more of a street guy, sounds familiar. Well this is exactly what happened in the real Gambino crime family when Big Paulie was made boss instead of Neil Dellacroce. The character Johnny Boy is a carbon copy of the late Gambino mobster John Gotti. The introduction of the character Callan and how he comes to power with his best friend in hell's kitchen, is the exact same way Mickey Featherstone and Jimmy Coonan of the Westies gang came to power in Hell's Kitchen in the 1970's. Also the storyline for the head of the Mexican cartel in this book Adan Barrera is almost identical to the real Mexican drug lord El Chaupo. For instance when the cardinal in this story is gunned down at an airport when he gets out of a white crown victoria car is exactly what happened in Mexico in 1993, which involved El Chaupo and is the incident that put him on the police radar. good read, but no Originality
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on October 23, 2016
Many reviews already written and a comprehensive synopsis on offer already. Thoroughly enjoyed this gritty, violent novel about the quest for power in the drug wars between the U.S.A and South America. The action takes place between the 1970's and late 1990's. It quite an intense read in places. Really no winners here and often difficult to know who the "good guys" are meant to be. Saw this recommended by author Adrian McKinty on his blog and decided to check it out. Very glad I did.
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on July 15, 2015
With Guzman "escaping" from "prison" in Mexico this week, the book takes on a certain contemporary resonance, since the main antagonist is based directly on his life in the Federacion cartel. This book leaves you gasping. It is entirely uneven and Must be taken with a pre-dosage of good non-fiction so you get the general outline of what is happening in Mexico and in Northwest Latin America, and with the so-called American War on Drugs. But once you do that, this book becomes de rigeur for the whole sorry sordid tale because it is in so many ways, like all great fiction, more accurate, more compelling, and more informative that all of the non-fiction accounts put together. There are places when you are not sure if you have stepped out of the novel into a Time magazine article or a UN Report; then, you turn the page, and suddenly you slam back into a brick wall of fiction and you feel whiplash from the shock. But it doesn't matter. It's so good. So good. You will learn so much from this book. And you will laugh aloud too at how incredibly inept, pathetic, and corrupt our war on drugs has become. And be amazed at the depth of the failed state on our southern border. Read it.
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on June 3, 2016
Wow...I picked this up before reading the second in the series The Cartel. I like to read in order for a series. I was completely surprised by how quickly and completely the writing drew me in. The characters had me loving them one minute, sorry for them the next and moving towards dislike later in the book. Fantastic development of characters and plotline. I seriously could not put this book down without reading 100 or more pages at a time. Don't be intimidated by the subject matter or switching of scenes or locations. The author does a great job of keeping everything fresh while maintaining a very quick pace and developments. I did not expect to be drawn in so much and actually care about the characters but it was inevitable thanks to the set-up in the writing. Read this book today - do not delay!
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