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Book Reivew- “The Border” by Don Winslow

The BorderSeveral years ago I did my first interview with legendary comic book writer/artist Howard Chaykin. At the end of the interview I revealed to him I was a crime fiction fan. So we then spent twenty minutes swapping recommendations, and one of the most interesting novels he recommended to me was a book called “The Power of the Dog” by an author I had never heard of named, Don Winslow. I was intrigued and got the book from my local library. And I now I’m forever in debt to Chaykin for making me aware of Winslow’s work. His recommendation not only turned me onto a fascinating, powerful and epic novel about America’s “War on Drugs”, it also got me in the ground floor of what would later become a trilogy of novels, 2015’s “The Cartel” and 2019’s “The Border,” which I just finished reading.

Each book in this trilogy is full of phenomenally developed and nuanced characters. Winslow’s Cartel books are also jam packed with thrilling action, fascinating twists and turns, and moments that will break your heart and blow your mind. If you haven’t read any of them do yourself a favor go back and read them all in order. They are some of the most powerful and best crime fiction I’ve ever read. They took me on a journey, and that journey was made so much richer in the concluding chapter “The Border.” That’s because the book is as good as an perhaps better than the other entries in the series, but it’s also full of epic payout for readers who have been following the story since the beginning.

The Border” once again follows the exploits of veteran DEA Agent Art Keller. Only this time, we get to see Keller in a new light because he’s put in charge of the organization he’s spent most of his life working for. So we get to see him try to enact real change and collide with the forces and institutions that don’t want to change or end the “war on drugs.”

Also, like the other books Keller may be the protagonist, but the story is an epic full of flawed, ambitious, and well meaning characters on both sides of the drug war as well as the people caught in the crossfire. We spend time with cops, drug traffickers, addicts, assassins, junkies, and immigrant children trying to escape the horror show that their home countries have become thanks to American drug money and monstrous drug traffickers.

I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling the epic journey that is “The don_winslowBorder,” but I will talk about some of my favorite characters. Keller, or course is amazing and so is the journey he goes on. Winslow also brings back two of my favorite characters from “Power of the Dog,” Sean Callan and Nora Hayden. I also was fascinated by the journey an undercover cop goes on in “The Border.”

The drug traffickers in “The Border” are a colorful and eclectic cast. Among them, I was most fascinated by an elder kingpin who rises to power in a way that would make Shakespeare’s Iago very proud. I also was intrigued with and horrified by Belinda, the female security chief for one of the kingpins. She’s incredibly competent at her job and incredibly brutal. She lusts for both the excess and violence that is part of traffickers’ world.

The drug dealers and kingpins are monstrous figures in “The Border,” but they aren’t the only evil Keller and company confront in the book. A large part of the novel’s power comes from the sections where Keller and company are forced to confront the rich and powerful institutions that profit from the drug war. Again, I don’t want to spoil too much.

So, “The Border” is a fantastic close to a journey that has been both an epic thrill ride and a meditation on the injustice, corruption, and lack of compassion that arises when a country wages “war” on a public health epidemic like drug addiction. You can tell Winslow has done his research some of the events and people in “The Border” are inspired by real life counterparts, which makes the narrative that much deeper and poignant. For me, the book is the best kind of fiction; one that takes you on a journey that entertains but also forces you to open your mind and your heart.

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Categories: Book Review