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The Cartel: A novel (Power of the Dog Series #2) (Hardcover)
From the internationally best-selling author of the acclaimed novel The Power of the Dog comes The Cartel, a gripping, true-to-life, ripped-from-the-headlines epic story of power, corruption, revenge, and justice spanning the past decade of the Mexican-American drug wars.
It’s 2004. DEA agent Art Keller has been fighting the war on drugs for thirty years in a blood feud against Adán Barrera, the head of El Federación, the world’s most powerful cartel, and the man who brutally murdered Keller’s partner. Finally putting Barrera away cost Keller dearly—the woman he loves, the beliefs he cherishes, the life he wants to lead.
Then Barrera gets out, determined to rebuild the empire that Keller shattered. Unwilling to live in a world with Barrera in it, Keller goes on a ten-year odyssey to take him down. His obsession with justice—or is it revenge?—becomes a ruthless struggle that stretches from the cities, mountains, and deserts of Mexico to Washington’s corridors of power to the streets of Berlin and Barcelona. Keller fights his personal battle against the devastated backdrop of Mexico’s drug war, a conflict of unprecedented scale and viciousness, as cartels vie for power and he comes to the final reckoning with Barrera—and himself—that he always knew must happen.
The Cartel is a story of revenge, honor, and sacrifice, as one man tries to face down the devil without losing his soul. It is the story of the war on drugs and the men—and women—who wage it.
About the Author
Don Winslow is the critically acclaimed, award-winning, internationally bestselling author of nineteen novels, including The Power of the Dog, Savages, The Winter of Frankie Machine and The Cartel. A former investigator, anti-terrorist trainer and trial consultant, Winslow lives in Southern California.
One of the Best Books of the Year: The Seattle Times, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, The Guardian (London), The Sunday Times (London), The Telegraph (London), The National Post (Toronto), The New Statesman (London), and The Daily Mail (London)
The New York Times “Winslow’s drug war version of The Godfather . . . A big, sprawling, ultimately stunning crime tableau . . . A magnum opus . . . Don Winslow is to the Mexican drug wars what James Ellroy is to L.A. Noir.” —Janet Maslin
Esquire “An epic, gritty south-of-the-border Godfather for our time. You don’t have to read Don Winslow’s The Power of the Dog to get swept away by The Cartel, its ripped-from-the-headlines sequel, but you should. You should try to get your hands on everything Winslow’s written, because he’s one of the best thriller writers on the planet.” —Benjamin Percy
NPR “Hugely hypnotic new thriller . . . the pace and feel of an exploded documentary . . . a brilliant and informative work of fiction about a nightmare world that flourishes in the bright light of day.” —Alan Cheuse Rolling Stone “A Game of Thrones of the Mexican drug wars, a multipart, intricately plotted, blood-soaked epic that tells the story of how America’s unquenchable appetite for illegal drugs has brought chaos to our southern neighbors and darkened our own political and criminal culture.” —Will Dana
Booklist (starred review) “Winslow’s riveting and tragic epic seamlessly blends fact and fiction to tell [an] incredible, heartbreaking story. . . . Winslow never loses control of his subject or his characters, despite the book’s scope and complexity. There is some of The Godfather here, but Winslow’s characterizations, though certainly multidimensional, have more of an edge to them than do Puzo’s, a greater recognition of the tragedy a violent power struggle leaves in its wake. Clearly one of the most ambitious and most accomplished crime novels to appear in the last 15 years,The Cartel will likely retain that distinction even as the twenty-first century grinds on.” —Bill Ott
Arizona Republic “The Cartel is the most important crime saga of the millennium. This is reporting and expose built around an intricate plot, finely etched characters and whip-crack dialogue. . . . Storytelling that matters.” —Robert Anglen
Lee Child “Sensationally good, even after the near-perfection of The Power of the Dog. Less of a sequel than an integral part of a solid-gold whole.”
Men's Journal “Winslow is the most fearless chronicler of the chaos and violence along the U.S.-Mexico border . . . who has written what could be the War and Peace of the War on Drugs.” —Erik Hedegaard
Fresh Air “The Cartel tells its ghastly story with enjoyable verve yet I was even more impressed with the way Winslow uses his plot to offer a superb history of the cartels and those out to stop them. Steeped in reportage, the novel. . . possesses a virtue I associate with traditional documentaries: it explains things. I finished the book understanding why Juárez is so violent; why cartels murder so many innocent people; why both the American and Mexican governments favor some cartels over others; and why the war on drugs is not just futile, but morally compromised. It’s here that fiction and documentary come together in a shared sense of, well, bleakness.” —John Powers Michael Connelly “Don Winslow has done it again. The Cartel is a first rate edge-of-your-seat thriller for sure, but it also continues Winslow’s incisive reporting on the dangers and intricacies of the world we live in. There is no higher mark for a storyteller than to both educate and entertain. With Winslow these aspects are entwined like strands of DNA. He’s a master and this book proves it once again.”
Los Angeles Times “Winslow has delivered two of the most . . . emotionally resonant novels in the past decade, 2005’s The Power of the Dog and its epic conclusion, The Cartel. . . . His prose is sparse and ferocious, and his rapid-fire story hits you like bullets from an AK-47.” —Ivy Pochoda
Entertainment Weekly “High-octane . . . The righteous indignation that fuels Winslow’s tale of cops, cartels, and the near-apocalyptic havoc they can create is, to use a sadly appropriate word, addictive.” —Clark Collis
James Ellroy “Don Winslow delivers his longest and finest novel yet in The Cartel. This is the War and Peace of dopewar books. Tense, brutal, wildly atmospheric, stunningly plotted, deeply etched. It’s got the jazz dog feel of a shot of pure meth!!”
The Sunday Times (London) “Astoundingly ambitious . . . It is unlikely to be bettered this year.” —John Dugdale (Thriller of the Month)
Vanity Fair “With corruption, violence, and a love story to boot, [The Cartel] is sure to have you grasping at the edge of your seat.” —Elise Taylor
Details “Winslow has long been hailed for his hard-boiled humor and storytelling, and this sequel to the best-selling The Power of the Dog shows why. . . . The coke-fueled, blood-soaked horror show that ensues would scare Tony Montana straight.” —David Swanson
Harlan Coben “The Cartel is a gut-punch of a novel. Big, ambitious, violent and wildly entertaining, Don Winslow’s latest is an absolute must-read.”
Los Angeles Magazine “An adrenaline rush, addictive as crack, and epic in the pre-Del-Taco-marketing-their-burritos-as-“epic” sense of the word. Don Winslow deals in corruption, subversion, and revenge with an intensity that makes him irresistible.”
Associated Press “The Cartel is an intricately detailed narrative of the cartel life. . . . Winslow has become an unintentional expert on a subject that sickens him.” —Hillel Italie
The Huffington Post “A sprawling epic of drug trafficking, murder, coercion, and corruption at the highest levels of Mexican law enforcement and government. . . . A grand and gripping epic novel.” —Mark Rubinstein
The San Diego Union-Tribune “A monster of a novel—big in story, big in ambition. Based on real events, it’s unavoidably violent but not voyeuristic. There is a deep understanding of the bonds and betrayals inherent to the drug trade, considerable musing about the difference between vengeance and justice, and a recognition that even in the face of soul-sapping depravity, there can be nobility and courage.” —John Wilkens
Sunday Herald (Scotland) “The Cartel offers a riveting expose of a modern tragedy where the fast pace of the thriller narrative never stumbles over the painstaking attention paid to detail and background. More importantly perhaps, they offer an alternative perspective on the accepted history of America’s involvement in the ‘war on drugs’, a shocking litany of greed, complicity and political machination. . . . Winslow [writes with] the authority of an investigative reporter and the narrative skill of a best-selling author.” —Alan Morrison
MysteryPeople (Pick of the Month) “Winslow deftly uses violence in the novel, fully aware of how much he asks the reader to act as witness. . . . The denouncement gives The Wild Bunch a run for its money in the final showdown category. He builds up to these moments beautifully, creating emotion and setting the stage for visceral attitude when such scenes explode. . . . For a mammoth novel, The Cartel moves. Winslow never loses his humanity and rage as he sweeps across a decade of rough shadow history to the wounded grace note it ends on. It captures everything great about crime fiction and makes it epic.”
Kirkus Reviews “[A] vast and ambitious thriller . . . Winslow has envisioned his novel on an epic scale. . . . At heart, this is the familiar tale of symbiosis between pursuer and pursued, reconfigured for the war on drugs and given a mean noir edge.”
Barnes and Noble Review “Don Winslow is one of those shape-shifter novelists; now light, now dark. Funny one minute, terrifying the next. . . . A Wagernian epic of murder and vengeance . . . The Cartel is as much a work of meticulous journalism as artful fiction. But through the blood haze and the political fog, Winslow allows us to see—and even to care about—his skillfully drawn characters.” —Anna Mundow
Publishers Weekly (starred review) “Masterly . . . This exhaustively researched novel elucidates not just the situation in Mexico but the consequences of our own disastrous 40-year ‘war on drugs.’” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
The Chicago Tribune “This is the big one . . . the El Niño, tsunami and San Andreas Fault shaker of drug novels rolled into one—a 600 page immersion that may leave you thinking you knew next to nothing about its seamy subject. . . . The Cartel is so relentlessly paced, its probing of daily evil so deep, you’re drawn in whether you like it or not.” —Lloyd Sachs
Vice “The book is as gruesome a read as it is insightful, chock-full of research into the organization and tactics of cartels and their (at times) strikingly similar governmental opponents. It is disturbing, and it is based in large part on actual events.” —Kristen Gwynne
The Seattle Times “If you have managed to shield your eyes and plug your ears against what’s been going on with the war on drugs in Mexico, Don Winslow’s searing new novel The Cartel will tear off the blinders. . . . This reader stuck with The Cartel to the end because it says something important.” —Mary Ann Gwinn
Interview Magazine “[The Cartel] is brutal, graphic, and well-researched, with many of the more gruesome acts based on real events. But there is something else that characterizes Winslow’s work. Beyond genre, there is musicality to his prose; staccato sentences that draw the reader in immediately.” —Emma Brown
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Don Winslow affirms his status as one of the best American writers with The Cartel. . . . Devilishly plotted and exhaustingly vivid . . . Winslow’s style, efficient and undeniable as a bullet, keeps you hanging on through the most labyrinthine plot twists. And there are plot twists.” —Carlo Wolff
Bill O'Reilly (Factor Tip of the Day) “[The Cartel] gives, perhaps, the clearest insight I’ve ever seen into the corruption that has nearly ruined the country of Mexico. Very tough book, but if you want to know what’s going on south of the border it is a must read.”
Stephen King “I’m totally swept up. You can’t ask for more emotionally moving entertainment.”
The Oregonian “Winslow is a prolific author.” —Jeff Baker
Miami Herald “The dark side of the U.S./Mexican drug wars [from] the gritty author of The Power of the Dog . . . Expect violence, gore—and revenge.” —Connie Ogle
National Post (Toronto) “Despite an impressive amount of research and its epic scope, The Cartel still readily embraces its old roots in the thriller genre. The old comforts you might find in Michael Connelly or Elmore Leonard are still here. . . . Terrifying.” —Andrew F. Sullivan
San Francisco Chronicle “Could not be more timely.” —John McMurtrie
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette “[Winslow’s] story feels less like a product of the imagination than an exhaustively researched bit of journalism. Which it is—a kind of true story set in the recognizable horror show of Mexico narco-terrorism.” —Philip Martin
Santa Barbara Independent “By securely grounding his fiction in fact, Winslow achieves a level of emotional truth and illustrates the hard challenges and brutal ironies of the decades-old dope war in a way that few works of nonfiction can match. . . . If you care about the nature of crime and justice in today’s America and the steep price that the men and women on the front lines of the War on Drugs pay to preserve the law and maintain a semblance of order, then pick up The Cartel and spend some time with the author’s dark vision.” —Bruce Riordan
LitReactor “One of America’s best crime novelists.” —Keith Rawson
Time magazine “Overpowering.” —Sarah Begley
Cinephilia & Beyond “[Winslow is] the leading American thriller writer of his generation. . . . What emanates from his writing . . . is a sense of humanity, of emotions under the surface, of the ever-going ambition to understand society, what drives people to do what they do, to explore what’s in their nature that makes them behave the way people have been behaving from the dawn of time. . . . It’s this warmth and compassion that makes Winslow one of the best contemporary novelists just as much as his writing does. . . . Whatever you feel gives life to the books of Don Winslow—be it nail-biting action scenes, detailed and thought-out characterizations of the people at the center of his stories or the abundance of details that lends his writing astonishing authenticity and credibility—one thing remains certain. The Cartel is going to blow our minds and leave us wanting for more.”
Star-News “The opening scene of Don Winslow’s The Cartel takes hold like a vise, and for the next 600 pages the book keeps a tight grip as it takes the reader into the underbelly of America’s 30-year war on drugs. . . . Like the journalists he praises, Winslow’s grasp of the material is impressive and has a nonfiction quality. . . . Winslow educates without being heavy handed or preachy. . . . While it is epic in scope, the writing has an intimacy and the characters, even the most evil, feel authentic. It’s a story that is hard to shake even when you’re done. And that is a good thing because this book shouldn’t be forgotten.” —Kevin Maurer
The Bookmonger “The Cartel may be to Mexican drug lords of today what The Godfather was to the Mafia in the 1960s and 1970s—a great story full of compelling characters, as well as a good way to learn about the motives and methods of a super-violent criminal organization.” —John J. Miller
Library Journal (starred review) “Winslow’s two-novel project about this still-raging conflict is entertaining, well researched, and difficult to process, a jarring glimpse into a reality about which many Americans remain blissfully unaware.” —Michael Pucci