If ever a book could serve as an indictment on the disastrous “war on drugs,” it would be Don Winslow’s absolutely engrossing, The Cartel. Though this novel is a sequel to The Power of the Dog, it stands firmly on its own.
DEA agent Art Keller is forced out of retirement, where he has kept himself in solitude, to track down his nemesis Adán Barrera. Barrera, a Mexican drug lord, has escaped prison with his mistress Magda, and is hellbent on rebuilding his empire. What ensues is a years long manhunt as Barrera rises back to power and sets off a bloody war across Mexico that leaves no one safe, innocent, or free from corruption.
Epic in scope, The Cartel is violent, bloody, and ruthless, breathtakingly so. Winslow is merciless in portraying the grim reality of the drug trade and the people who try to curtail it. Much like the HBO series The Wire, Winslow finds different ways to tell the same story. We see the events of this novel through law enforcement, the narcos, journalists, a doctor, a child. No one is entirely a saint and no one is entirely a sinner. Redemption, however, is promised to no one.