Twice now, Don Winslow believed he was out.
After finishing 2005’s The Power of the Dog, he’d felt he said his piece on the war on drugs. Then, nearly a decade later, he sat down at a keyboard and started typing what would become his follow-up to The Power of the Dog, The Cartel. After that, he was positive he was finished.
Then came Trump. All the talk about walls. Mexicans as rapists and the never-ending opioid epidemic pushed Winslow back into the world he swore he’d left behind.
Hello darkness my old friend.. I’ve come to talk with you again.
The Border takes place everywhere but the novel’s namesake. We’re all over the map in this story. Some of it takes place in Washington, DC as it follows Art Keller and his new role as head of the DEA. Other parts of the story take us to New York City, where we follow an undercover operation to stop the flow of heroin into the Big Apple. We’re also taken to Mexico as the power structure of the drug cartels has fractured following the death of undisputed overlord, El Patron, Adan Barrera. Other smaller stories make up the overreaching story including revisiting former mob hit man Sean Callan as well as a look into the journey of a boy from Guadalajara as he makes his trek to the United States.
There’s a lot more I could go into, but I’m fearful of spoilers.
Unlike its predecessors, The Border is more focused on the inner workings of the drug trade rather than the heavy focus on violence you saw in both The Power of the Dog and The Cartel. Don’t get me wrong, there are still scenes that will blow you away but they’re more to do with the unimaginable depth of corruption on Wall Street and inside Washington, DC. I found this endlessly fascinating. Winslow basically swaps out Russia for the drug cartels in Mexico and ties them up with the current administration. He cleverly swaps out Donald Trump and Jared Kushner for “John Dennison” and “Jason Lerner” but changes very little about the way they operate and speak (at least for Trump). I absolutely loved this – the last one hundred pages or so belong strictly in the “un-put-downable” category.
As for the other aspects of the story, Winslow spotlights the very real impact of the drug trade on the vulnerable. This includes both addicts as well as impressionable youth who get caught up in dealing through street gangs. I can’t go too deep into this without giving away some major plot points, but there are more than a few thrilling moments along with some heartbreaking ones as well.
In closing, Don Winslow’s Cartel Trilogy is an achievement. It is a trilogy of pulse-pounding action and unflinching violence coupled with deep, intense research showcasing an uncompromising look at the widespread effect of the never-ending war on drugs.