Denny Malone leads the men of the Manhattan North Special Task Force, an elite group of NYPD detectives otherwise known as “Da Force”. Malone and company “hold the line” separating the drugs and violence of the gangs from the “good people” of Manhattan – a task easier said than done. As Da Force often trudges through the mud, they’re bound to get dirty so when Malone gets caught by the Feds during one of his unsavory dealings, the resulting damage threatens to destroy Da Force and the fragile peace between the NYPD and the citizens of New York.
Denny Malone is a deeply flawed character. He’s a hero cop, but as dirty as they come. He’s a family man, but he tossed his wife and kids aside for The Force. He puts on a strong front, but is conflicted and damaged to his core. The night and day of his personality is what makes him so compelling. One minute you’re sympathizing with the guy, the next you think he’s full of shit.
Malone’s compatriots – the band of brothers that make up The Force – are also corrupt, yet just as noble. One of the core questions of the novel is: do the ends justify the means? One of the better quotes (and there are many), “How do you cross the line? One step at a time” rings true for not only “Da Force” but also their enemies. Malone’s tales of walking in on gruesome crime scenes where there are no lines, where children have been murdered in the trenches of a never ending drug war juxtapose against cops gunning down unarmed criminals, swiping drugs from crime scenes and taking payoffs from wise guys. Everyone is dirty and no one wants to take a bath.
Although the entire book provided me with an excellent experience, Winslow’s writing in the final one hundred pages alone is some of the finest work I’ve ever read in crime fiction. I’m not talking about stylish prose, although his writing hits hard in short bursts like a machine gun, I’m talking about a level of sustained tension that kept the story at a boiling point. I know this is some heavy praise, but the way in which this story unfolds is downright captivating.
The Force is easily the best novel I’ve read in 2017 and I struggle to think it’s going to be topped this year. With The Force, Don Winslow has produced a tightly researched, expertly crafted novel that gripped me from start to finish.