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‘Power of the Dog’ leaves readers breathless

  I purchased five of Don Winslow’s novels at one time a few months ago, based on the recommendation of an acquaintance, and I haven’t been disappointed in a single one of the books. In fact, I’ve been amazed at the sheer brilliance of Winslow’s creativity and writing style, confused at why it has taken me so long to find this remarkable author of suspense thrillers.
  Having read “The Dawn Patrol,” “The Winter of Frankie Machine,” “California Fire and Life” and “The Death and Life of Bobby Z,” I finally decided to tackle “The Power of the Dog,” which is a long book (more than 500 pages). I’d been putting it off for a few weeks because though I enjoyed “Bobby Z,” I’m not really into novels about Mexican and Colombian drug cartels, especially long ones that cover a 30-year span of time and have a multitude of characters.  The book is also heavy in weight. I mention that because I have to carry it on the bus with me when I go to work each weekday, and I usually end of having to stand each way with the book in my hand.
  Well, I broke down and read the first 20 pages of “The Power of the Dog” and once again found myself hooked on a Winslow novel. I couldn’t put the sucker down, no matter how heavy it was. I ended up reading the book in three days. Not only was I entertained in a way that most readers can only dream about with a favorite author, but I also learned a lot about American’s war on drugs and the billions of dollars that we’ve spent on a losing battle. This is what great writing is supposed to do — entertain and educate and to hopefully make a reader think about the things that were discussed within the novel.
  It’s 1975 and Art Keller has come out of Vietnam and the CIA to join the DEA in its new war against drugs, specifically the drugs coming out of Mexico and into the United States. He’s young and ambitious and wants to make a big splash careerwise, more so since his boss and team members pretty much ignore him because of his background in the intelligence field. Being half Mexican, however, Keller does what his other team members are unable to do and quickly works his way into the trust of the two young Barrera brothers, Adan and Raul, and through them, their uncle Tio (Miguel Angel Barrera, who works for the state police and wants to be the only drug distributor in Mexico).
  Tio immediately recognizes Art’s ambition to advance his career and uses the DEA agent to rid himself of his competition, killing the men and their entire families in one massive wave of death. Art Keller’s career takes a giant leap, but it has its price. Once Tio and his nephews become the drug lords of Mexico, Art realizes his mistake and soon has to focus his attention on putting them behind bars. Art will do whatever it takes to put the Barrera clan away, and it eventually causes the death of not only one his agents, who’s tortured for information that he doesn’t have, but also the death of a woman whose head is cut off and her two children thrown off a 700-foot bridge to their deaths as a lesson to her drug-dealing husband, the death of a Catholic priest, who desires only to help the poor of Mexico and to do God’s work, and countless others before the novel is finally finished.
  Art also will have to deal with the Italian Mafia, an Irish stone-cold killer, and a prostitute named Nora, in order to bring down the Barrera family, and his own life will never be quite the same as he loses his family and slowly becomes what he hates the most.
  “The Power of the Dog” is a novel that never lets up and keeps the reader glued to each page with the behind-the-scenes drama that goes on between the United States and Mexico, not to mention Central America and Columbia, and the power of the American dollar, because it’s all about money in the end. The reader also has to face the horror and violence that the United States helped to create as the drug cartels struggle for their very survival. This is a novel of such intensity that it will leave you breathless and shocked when the last page is reached. It also will give you a bitter look at what actually goes on behind closed doors and how the lives of the common man mean absolutely nothing to those in power. It doesn’t matter how many women and children have to die in order to keep the drugs flowing into the United States and the money flowing back into Mexico. Though this is a work of fiction, the story definitely gave me a new outlook on the U.S. government and the effect it has on other countries, always dangling the all-American dollar above their heads in an effort to get what it wants.
  Winslow has written a book of such massive scope, detail and insight, that it does for thrillers what Stephen King’s “The Stand” did for the horror genre. This is a novel that certainly will entertain, but it’s also one that will open your eyes and enable you to see more clearly the terrible cost of drugs in both money and human lives, and what our country is capable of doing when it thinks it’s in the right. At the end of the day, all of us will have blood on our hands.
  “The Power of the Dog” is an extremely powerful novel that will leave you mesmerized by this author’s capability and utterly addicted to everything he writes.
  Though it’s early in the year, I’m ready to pick “The Power of the Dog” as the best read for me in 2009. That’s how good it is!

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