The Power Of The Dog by Don Winslow
My Own copy from TBR mountain
Drug lord Miguel Angel Barrera is head of the Mexican drug federación, responsible for millions of dollars worth of cocaine traffic into the US and the torture of those who stand in its way. His nephew, Adan Barrera, is his worthy successor.
Art Keller is a US government operative, so determined to obtain revenge for a murdered colleague that his pursuit of the cartel veers dangerously towards an obsession outside the law. This is a world characterised by its brutality, yet all Winslow’s incredibly varied cast – including a high class prostitute, an Irish hitman and a charismatic Catholic priest – are all in their own ways searching for salvation.
I don’t quite know where to begin with this review. The novel is so in-depth and detailed about the cartel lifestyle and Mexican/American political systems that enabled it. It that it is incredibly hard to breakdown. The characterisation is brilliant, the author slowly builds the characters up as the plot unravels. You are left under no illusion what an immensely tough job it must be to enforce DEA law and attempt to stop the cartel’s flow of drugs. Not only are the police facing a criminal network that spans the globe and is savage and violent in its approach. But they also face dirty cops, bribed officials and people who would put themselves above the good of the country and its citizens.
‘A lot of money goes into bribes.
silver or lead’
The prologue opens in El Sauzal, Mexico 1997. Art Keller our protagonist and US operative is at the scene of a violent and bloody murder. 19 bodies lay slain, including a mother and baby. The death toll is 10 men, 3 women and 6 children. The victims were lined up against the patio wall and shot, execution style. Some of the family members show signs of torture, leading the cops to believe this is gang/cartel related. One lone victim remains, who was forced to watch the violence take place.
The novel goes on to describe the various methods of torture for crime committed. For example, traitors are shot in the back of the head and informers in the mouth. Life is the cartel is far from easy.
‘El poder del perro’ – The power of the dog
From the start the novel has a violent and explosive opening. However, the novel does go on to detail various areas of Mexico, who is affected by the cartel trade which includes the poor and just trying to get by citizens. But it also covers the policing, how a multidisciplinary team approach is desperately needed. But no one trust each other.
Art Keller is new to Mexico at the opening of the novel, but the end he is accustomed to the harsh way of life/death the cartels live by. At the beginning he is suffering flashbacks from his tour in Vietnam.
I wondered myself, which would be worse war? Or the war on drugs?
The DEA has been in operation 2yrs and Nixon has recently declared his ‘war on drugs’ stance. This is as the same time Art find himself recruited from the CIA to the DEA. Art is an experienced soldier, but I believe at the beginning he was naïve at just how integrated the cartel structure is into everyday life. His boss Tim Taylor hates him, and he is isolated and alone in and new to Mexico. This is when he first meets Adan Barrera. . .
‘Years later, Art would have given anything in the world to have just killed Adan Barrera on the spot’
‘A partnership made in hell’ – Art Keller & Tio Barrera
There are a wealth of characters from Father Juan to Nora Hayden, it would be impossible for me to break down all the details of who fits into the plot and where, just know that each individual mentioned is relevant and they all play a part no matter how big or small in the formation of a divide.
Which will sit Art on one side of the fence and the cartel on another.
Art is also dealing with his own new marriage and personal problems. He is a complex character and there is so much more to Art than first meets the eye.
‘The only redemption for having a bad father is being a good one’
Art has adapted the motto YOYO aka you’re on your own. A motto that when dealing with the cartel will serve him well, as you never know who you can trust.
When Art’s colleague Ernie Hidalgo goes missing, all hell breaks loose the DEA will stop at nothing to return one of their own.
“If I have to. . . I’ll start a fucking war” – Art Keller
Adan Barrera’s character also evolves. He is quite the strategist and manages to ensure he is top-dog of the cartel empire. But how long can that last for?
And how quickly can you be taken down or killed?
Adan also has a daughter that suffers a rare genetic condition. He personally feels responsible for this and it causes a huge rift in his marriage. With both him and his wife, ready to accept full responsibility for the condition.
‘Neither god nor science can help his daughter’
The novel goes on to explain Adan’s rise within the organised infrastructure of the cartel drug trade.
‘Adan Barrera has reinvented the drug business’
The cartels are comfortable with the situation of buying the very police sent to stop them, they see it as a franchise, a business expense.
‘Just look the other way, be someplace else, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil and the monthly payment will be there in full and on time’
The cartel trade runs into profits of $8million a WEEK, yes that is a WEEK!!!!!! It is easy to see that every man, woman or child just has a price tag attached. Except one man, Art Keller can not be bought and will not be put on the pay roll.
It just might be his downfall and he knows it. . .
‘He’s only sure that either he will kill Adan or Adan will kill him, and those are the only two ways this thing can end’ – Art Keller
This novel has a deeply layered plot, that covers politics, corruption, flow of drugs, cartel wars, deception and violence. The last 20% is very intense and sets the scene perfectly for the next novel in the series The Cartel. Which I already have sat on my tbr pile.
A fantastic insight into the real ‘war on drugs’.
Currently Reading – 35% in:
The Force by Don Winslow
Everyone can be bought. At the right price…
Detective Sergeant Denny Malone leads an elite unit to fight gangs, drugs and guns in New York. For eighteen years he’s been on the front lines, doing whatever it takes to survive in a city built by ambition and corruption, where no one is clean.
What only a few know is that Denny Malone himself is dirty: he and his partners have stolen millions of dollars in drugs and cash. Now he’s caught in a trap and being squeezed by the FBI. He must walk a thin line of betrayal, while the city teeters on the brink of a racial conflagration that could destroy them all.
***Although I am reading this via kindle, I urge you to sample the audiobook. The narration is fantastic. In fact, so fantastic I actually own it in both kindle & audio.***