The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow

I absolutely loved this book. Hands down, without any equivocating, this is a five star book. I literally could not put it down. I had the novel blues after I finished – you know the ailment where you just finished a really fabo, on time novel and then its over? I was lucky, I found a couple of books afterwards that brought me down slowly but I am on a mission to read everything this author has written.

As for this book….the story is very multi-layered and complex. Art is a DEA agent. He is Mexican American and grew up in the barrios of San Diego. He has partners that he is enmeshed with and cares about but at the same time, he is on a mission to bring down the Mexican drug cartels. Through the course of the novel, he will travel the world following the money and the drugs and the players. He will lose some of himself, destroy some relationships and develop others. He has a complicated history with some of the members of the cartel.

The cartel building part of the story was a la ‘The Godfather”. One corrupt cop has figured out how to use the political and military regimes and machines in Mexico to exploit the black market drug trade. What starts off as penny ante dealing, evolves over a thirty year period that the book covers, into a multi-headed hydra. Three individuals, two of them being the Don’s nephews, control all of Mexico and the United States with their hands also dipped into several Central American countries.

Into this mix enter the CIA and the Italian Mafia. Both have vested interests in keeping the drug trade active and healthy. The CIA does so for both control and to create political stability or instability in countries where the United States has particular interests. NAFTA trade plays a role, as does supporting or decimating regimes that no longer serve United States interests. The Italian Mafia is working with both the cartels and the CIA. Their interests are primarily monetary but there is a whole other sub-story involving Irish and Italian control of Boston neighborhoods as well as the development in all groups of hit men.

Not to be eliminated from the complexities, the Catholic Church also plays an important role in the story. The main Padre is a powerful priest whose strong community development and social justice vision, not only pits him against the cartels but also propels his own position into an upward trajectory through the involvement and intervention of the Vatican. The Vatican benefits as the cartel and the mafia are highly Roman Catholic in nature and are often providing huge amounts of money to secure the cooperation of the church.

The last player in this piece is a high end escort. She goes from being a small time school girl prostitute in San Diego to being a highly paid companion of many of the men in power. In addition to this, she develops a very close relationship with the priest. Her character study is a real look into what money can and cannot buy as well as the complexities of the relationships and connections she makes in the world of the drug trade.

Although a work of fiction, this book really gets into the meat and potatoes of how these cartels operate and what each stakeholder has invested right down to their very lives. Great character studies, a ton of action and a wonderfully complicated plot that really engages you as a reader. The book was not easy to put down and I have to confess there were many nights when I was up until dawn because I just could not stop reading. I fully intend to get everything this author has done. What a writer!!! A five star book is hard to find and this is a five plus plus in my opinion!


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