The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow is Scarface and The Godfather rolled into one. You live as the good guys the bad guys and the people in between that are casualties of the drug war. This looks at both sides like I have never read before, it shows the good guys having to cross lines they never thought they could cross and the bad guys crossing those lines to keep what they have. There’s a scene that will leave you floored as a bad guy does the unthinkable to take down a rival, think Red Wedding from Game of Thrones. This book goes through 3 decades of drug traffic starting in the 1970’s to the 2000’s, from Mexico, Columbia and the United States, through the mob, the cartel and the narcos. This is the first book in the Power of the Dog Series, it continues in The Cartel, and in The Border. I have read the Cartel and it is just as excellent as The Power of the Dog. Winslow has this writing style that feels so real, he can take you to the past in a blink of an eye while wrapping up the current narrative. His writing style reminds me of Mario Puzo meets James Ellroy. The fiction blends perfectly with real events, making the novel feel so real. This is My third Don Winslow novel, and I have been blown away each time. It was just announced that the novel The Force will star Matt Damon and be directed by James Mangold, who just directed Damon in Ford v Ferrari. Winslow has previously had the Secret Life of Bobby Z and The Savages who both starred John Travolta.
The Plot: Art Kellar a soldier in Vietnam War takes a job at a newly formed organization the DEA. His job is to stop the flow of heroin from Mexico to the US. Art makes friends with the Tio Barrera a local cop with a lot of influence and his nephews Adan and Raul. Adan and Kellar are fast friends and the reason he now has the influence he has in the organization. Kellar and the Barrera’s take down the drug kingpin of heroin in Mexico. Which the DEA calls job well done. Only the Barrera’s had an ulterior motive to take up the distribution and use it for a cheaper new drug cocaine. Art Kellar has to convince his superiors of the new drug and new power players, Kellar feels responsible for giving power. Kellar dedicates his life to stopping his former friends the Barrera’s. It will take a Priest, a prostitute, and a member of the Irish mob to all play a part.
What I Liked: The history in intertwined in the novel elevates it to the next level. The way the CIA plays both sides and the motive that is given. The ups and downs of good guys to bad guys. This side characters that are explored and make sense when you see the whole puzzle in how they fit into it. The way people are described really sets them apart. There’s easily over fifty characters and I was never once confused on who they were and who’s side they were on. The twist and turns of people flipping, of plans not working out, of people having hidden agendas, and of how connected they really are, is what makes this novel so great. The story flows so seamlessly despite how complex the storyline is. Nora and Callan’s arcs are my favorites to good supporting character’s that are more than they seem. The bridge scene is, the scene that will stick with me for a while, it’s tension filled, it’s a do or die moment for one character, and it was so horrific, so shocking, that it made me cry with grief. This is the Red Wedding moment in Game of Thrones.
What I Disliked: Understanding of Columbian politics, I feel like I need a whole book to understand Columbian politics, and the book takes a shot at it and I still came away confused. I feel like it is more of the complexity of the situation than the explaining of it, it didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment of the book, and I still took a lot a way from it.
Recommendation: The Power of the Dog is a book that feels like a great gangster movie as your reading it. There’s too many trigger warning’s too list, If you enjoy gangster movies or Game of Thrones the series or the books then you can handle the brutality of this. This is my third novel by Don Winslow and it will not be my last. I read the Cartel first before knowing it was a series and was blown away and not too lost, I now plan on rereading it, to get the impact of everything that happened before, and eventually read the Border the newest entry in the series. The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow gets the same score as the Cartel 5 out of 5 stars. Do yourself a favor and check out Don Winslow’s work, if you can handle it.