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A form of historical fiction reminiscent of a George RR Martin epic
on September 6, 2015
I read this book because when The Cartel came out a few months back I thought it looked interesting, wanted (still want) to read it, read there was a first novel of sorts so I picked up The Power of the Dog.
It's a compelling page turner. It kind of reminded me of a George RR Martin novel with the cast of characters and the turns the story(ies) take. Martin would have split this into 3 books and added about fifteen hundred pages of detail, but Winslow opts to pen a tale that reads more like a TV show/movie at times. I'd compare it to one of the great Russian novels, it comes close, but at times there is a lack of introspection that marks those works in the service of moving the story along, which is fine.
There are no true "good" guys in this tale, as there are none in the world. Let me say it better: the "good" ones, the innocent, don't last long when they come into contact with the seedier elements surrounding the rise of the powerful Mexican drug cartels. The nominal white-hat good guys, the DEA, CIA, and various other government operatives, are complicit in wrong- and downright evil doing. Winslow pulls no punches, and though this is a work of fiction, it could easily have been a work of historical fiction, encompassing everything from Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, the US government's battle against perceived communist elements in Latin America, the ascension to power of John Gotti (here called Johnny Boy) as head of the New York crime families, the role the US govt. and its agencies played in flooding the inner cities with crack cocaine, and how the NAFTA trade agreement facilitated the drug cartels. Phew!
My only criticism were there were one (really two) scenes near the end that really read like suspense-building nail biters for the large or small screen and seemed out of place with the rest of the novel. They were what they were, but I'll admit they had me on the edge of my seat to see how Winslow would pull them off.
I'm taking a break for awhile, read some other (lighter) stuff, then diving into The Cartel. Well done Mr. Winslow!