Book Review “The Cartel”

The Cartel
The Cartel


“Mexico is a very good place to be a criminal. ” (p292)

This is a lengthy tome, it is like a Mexican Godfather. Whilst it is fiction, there has been a lot of research done and many of the details parallel real life often gruesome incidents in the Mexican Drug War, like the macabre incident where the face of a Mexican Druglord is sewn onto a football. At heart of the novel, there is a story of a friendship gone sour between Art Keller, DEA agent, and Adan Barrera, head of the most powerful drug cartel family in Sinaloa.

“That smart son of a bitch Keller knows that he’s safer here in Mexico than he was in the States. Knows that if you stick your head far enough into the jaguar’s mouth, it can’t clamp its jaws shut.” remarks Adan Barrera (p86)

This book opens a window into the ruthless world of Mexican drug trafficking and how the cartels control much of what happens on their territories. The poor Mexicans who get caught up in the narcogeography are usually given a devilish choice; work with the cartel (paying their pisos for example) or die. The paramilitary Zetas are particularly ruthless in their killings.

The book is the sequel to The Power of the Dog but it is not necessary to read the prequel to enjoy The Cartel. James Ellroy described this book as “the War and Peace of dope war books.”  Weighing in at 616 pages and covering a broad sweep of Mexico as well as stretching some tendrils into Guatemala, the US and even into Europe, it is truly epic in proportions. There are many characters the good, the bad and the downright evil but even some of the less savoury characters are drawn with a sympathetic pen.

My rating : 5 out of 5

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