The Cartel by Don Winslow is one epic book, the story takes place over 9 years and feels like it. You live the lives of heroes and villains in a drug war gone bad. The book in fiction but is heavily researched with real events added to the story to give it an authentic feel. The Cartel is the second book in the Power of the Dog series. This is the second time I have read this book, the first time I read it out of series order, but this book does a great job of recapping everything that happened in Power of the Dog ( the first book), that I wasn’t lost. Power of the Dog starts in the 70′ and leads up to the 2000’s and The Cartel takes it from the 2000’s and goes up to 2010’s. The main characters from Power of the Dog Art Kellar and Adan Barrera continue their blood feud going to an amazing climax. This is a great gangster tale, with lots of action. The Godfather the film is mentioned a lot, and you can see parallels but this novel is definitely it’s own thing. For a 616 pages this novel has an amazing pay off that rewards the reader for all the pages.
The Plot: After Art Kellar had Adan Barrera arrested in the US. Art retired and joined silent monks to maintain seek mercy for all that he has done. Adan Barrera cuts a deal to rat on one of his ex-partners in exchange to be extradited to Mexico to serve the rest of prison sentence and attend the funeral of his daughter. Once in Mexico he has all the prison officials bought and lives like a king, he has female prisoners brought in to parties and falls for one Magda. Adan Blames Kellar for his daughter’s death and puts a two million dollar bounty on him, which draws his old agency the DEA to warn him. Kellar fearing retaliation goes on the move and takes down bounty hunters on the way all not wanting to be apart of the DEA, until he reads a report about Adan escaping prison. In Adan’s 3 year absence a new gang the Zeta’s have grown into power. Adan was ruthless with in reason but the Zeta’s just want chaos. Kellar want to take sides down as they target people that are close to him. Kellar may have to work with Adan to take them down.
What I Liked:The characters are interesting and each is given a background, so you know where there choices come from and they feel very real. Crazy Eddie my favorite side character. He is funny and ruthless. I loved Crazy Eddie trying to make a movie of his life. The Climax is action packed and really fulfilling ending. The shoot out at the Don’s house was a great one, where the 70 year old hunter won’t be bossed around and destroy his home. I liked the Mexico prison scenes, which reminded me of the Goodfellas prison scenes. I loved the seamless blending of facts and fiction.
What I Disliked: the only time I found this book challenging is keeping up with what side everyone was on, and sometimes if they were in Mexico or America. The Character of Chuy was so underutilized, his character disappears for almost 300 pages, that I almost forgot about him, when he returns at the end of the book. There were too many scenes with the Juarez news, I liked were the scene ultimately went too but it took way too long to get there.
Recommendations: Pick up The Power of the Dog series, it is so hard hitting. I you want to read a gritting hard hinting novel that does not stop, the this is the book for you. This book is all about gangsters and drugs. I rated The Cartel by Don Winslow 5 out of 5 stars, the novel had a few hiccups but delivered on a lot. I liked The Power of the Dog slightly more. I have just received a copy of The Border by Don Winslow which is the 3rd book in the Power of the Dog series and plan on reading that soon.