Don Winslow

The Cartel

""‘The Cartel’ is an important book. It deserves your attention." "


It's 2004. DEA agent Art Keller is in hiding after sacrificing everything he cared about to bring down the head of El Federación, one of the world's most powerful cartels and the man who murdered Keller's partner, Adan Barrera.

Barrera escapes prison, determined to rebuild what Keller destroyed. The first thing Barrera does is place a $2 million bounty on Keller's head.

Keller comes out of hiding, determined not to live in a world where Adan Barrera is a free man and goes on a 10 year ruthless rampage of justice. His obsession becomes a ruthless struggle that stretches from the cities, mountains and deserts of Mexico to Washington's corridors of power.

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'Awesome' is an over-used word these days but with this book, it is absolutely 'le bon mot'. Taken along with 'The Power of the Dog', this is the definitive work of fiction detailing the actions of the Mexican drug cartels, the ongoing war on drugs and the men and women who wage it. The truth of the situation is hammered home before you even begin reading the text of the novel. Winslow lists the names of all the journalists who were murdered or 'disappeared' during the time the novel spans. This takes almost two pages of tightly typed names. The two main characters are fascinating. Coming from either side of the drug war, we get to see the things they care about and the things they do to protect that and cleverly, Winslow demonstrates the complexity in such people. Lines are crossed. Bad people do good things. Good people do bad things. One of my favourite characters is Jesus 'Chuy' Barajos. At age eleven he is indoctrinated by one faction in the war, The Zetas and forced to kill his first man. He becomes an assassin and his story is one of the threads that build into a terrifying narrative, highlighting the everyday horrors of life in such a world. Eight years of fact-fuelled fiction, 'The Cartel' is no dry polemic but an engaging, consuming thrill ride that makes you think and feel and fear. It's clear that the author cares deeply about the mess this part of the world is in. His anger and frustration fuel the narrative, pull you in and make you care every bit as much. 'The Cartel' is an important book. It deserves your attention.

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