I can’t say I’ve read all our bookclub books this year, but we have had an interesting mix. Of that mix, the most interesting was – hands down – the last book we read: Don Winslow’s The Cartel.
It’s not a pleasant book. In fact a few of us stopped reading in the middle when the violence got super gross and kind of skimmed our way to the end! But then again, it’s about the height of the drug violence in Mexico which has only eased off in recent years. A brutal, insane, widespread murder of thousands of people both in and outside of the trade.
What I think Don Winslow did really well was create a long-view, multi-character work that shows how the drug trade in general, and this period of hyper-violence in particular, affects law enforcement, politicians, journalists, those running cartels, those working for cartels, those trained as killers and all the ordinary people who are trying to live immersed in the awfulness of it all.
I found all his characters interesting and at the end of it, those still alive, live in a believable aftermath. It isn’t sentimental or trying to clean up what was an impressively brutal period. This book was, to me, a fascinating work structurally and for the number of story threads. It’d also give Game of Thrones a run for its money on the number of named characters!
After I put it down I wished I had more stomach for the violence, because it would have been good to read it properly through to the end, but it was refreshing to read something that dealt with morals in such a direct way.