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The Power of the Dog

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From the bestselling author of Savages (now an Oliver Stone film).

This novel of the drug trade takes you deep inside a world riddled with corruption, betrayal, and bloody revenge. Art Montana is an obsessive DEA agent. The Barrera brothers are heirs to a drug empire. Nora Hayden is a jaded teenager who becomes a high-class hooker. Father Parada is a powerful and incorruptible Catholic priest. Callan is an Irish kid from Hell’s Kitchen who grows up to be a merciless hitman. And they are all trapped in the world of the Mexican drug Federaci. From the streets of New York City to Mexico City and Tijuana to the jungles of Central America, this is the war on drugs like you’ve never seen it.

542 pages, Paperback

First published April 26, 2005

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About the author

Don Winslow

78 books5,927 followers
Don Winslow is the author of twenty-one acclaimed, award-winning international bestsellers, including the New York Times bestsellers The Force and The Border, the #1 international bestseller The Cartel, The Power of the Dog, Savages, and The Winter of Frankie Machine. Savages was made into a feature film by three-time Oscar-winning writer-director Oliver Stone. The Power of the Dog, The Cartel and The Border sold to FX in a major multimillion-dollar deal to air as a weekly television series beginning in 2020.

A former investigator, antiterrorist trainer and trial consultant, Winslow lives in California and Rhode Island.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

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Profile Image for Matt.
919 reviews28.3k followers
March 12, 2019
“But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you, my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog.”
- Psalm 22:19-20.

Everything about Don Winslow’s The Power of the Dog feels familiar. As I read it, pop culture artifacts as different as Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic, and the techno-thrillers of Tom Clancy popped into my head. The dramatis personae is almost a list of archetypes: the hard-charging, straight-edged DEA agent; the hard-charging agent's charmless boss; and the urbane drug lord who gradually gets his hands dirtier and dirtier. This is a novel where you can see all the moving parts, but it’s constructed so well, that it never matters. From page one, you are reading downhill.

The Power of a the Dog is a sweeping, 542-page epic of the drug trade. It tells a fictional story that is framed by real life events. It begins in 1975, with a close-in look at the infamous Operation Condor, and ends in 2004, when the War on Drugs has taken on a new, post-9/11 look. In between…some very bad things happen.

Trying to describe the plot is an unnecessary exercise that I won’t attempt except at the most macro level. The backbone of the narrative is the struggle between Art Keller, the straight-edged DEA agent I mentioned above, and Adan Barrera, the Michael Corleone of the Mexican Cartels. Keller is obsessed with bringing down Adan’s organization, El Federación. This simple motive is the one constant in an otherwise sprawling book, which includes characters like Sean Callan, an Irish hitman with a load of guilt (because he’s Catholic, duh!); Nora, a high-class hooker with a heart of gold (naturally); a mobster nicknamed Peaches (because he likes peaches); an incorruptible priest named Father Parada, who reminds me of the “cool” young Jesuits I knew in college (he smokes and he curses!); and Ramos, the last good cop in Mexico, who has a preternatural ability to find the bad guys (he chews an unlit cigar, so you know he’s badass).

All these are stock types. Winslow tries to develop them, but they never leap off the page as three-dimensional humans. Keller, for instance, is half-Mexican, comes from barrios, and is suitably tortured by his past actions and mistakes. Despite this, his unbending rectitude makes him the least interesting star in the constellation. He is just one more haunted cop in the litany of fiction’s haunted cops.

Many of these people die, some quite horribly. Their deaths affected me on an intellectual level (plot twist!), but never an emotional one. They were just names, nicknames, and affectations, like Tarantino creations. Cool, yes. Memorable, yes. Psychologically and emotionally realized, not quite. (One character, who I will not name, plays a long con that is only believable if you do not imagine these people having a life outside the page).

Mentioning this is almost beside the point. Once you start reading, you’re going to finish. Pointing out clichés in the characters is like bemoaning the view from the top of a roller coaster. What matters is how all these characters interact, use each other, con each other, hurt each other.

Winslow writes at a very high level. There are incredible set pieces. A mob hit. A shootout in the streets. A raid by drug enforcement agents. Even the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. The Power of the Dog is packed with memorable scenes. It is also surprisingly powerful. In his prologue, Winslow drops us into his story with the image of a dead child. No explanation, no context. Hundreds of pages later, he’ll circle back to this scene, and the meaning he develops by finally placing it within the framework of the story is ingenious.

Apart from the frenetic action, Winslow also takes care to show us the big picture of the drug trade. He bounces from location to location to show us the entire pipeline. We move from Central American jungles to Mexico City to U.S.-Mexican border crossings to New York City. (This is referred to in the novel as the Mexican Trampoline). He shows you the interaction between Mexican organized crime, and American organized crime (here focusing on the Mafia, rather than street gangs), along with the complicity of the Mexican government and the meddling, regime-destabilizing antics of the U.S. government. The Power of the Dog manages to seamlessly transition between scope and intimacy, to show us both the bigger picture, and to give us a gritty feel for the smaller details.

I read this book right around the time my brother-in-law died. It’s not what I would’ve chosen (filled with sadness, death, and hopelessness), but it was at hand. It’s a testament to Winslow’s storytelling abilities that it captured and held my attention during an impossible time.

That said, this is not escapist fiction. It is far too brutal. This is one of the most graphic books I’ve ever read, and that’s saying something, since my prurient interest leads me to seek these things out. There is a heavy quotient of murder and torture, all described in great detail. But Winslow is not working in the tradition of grand guignol. He is not stylizing the violence. He does not make it so over-the-top as to render the bloodshed harmless. To the contrary, the things Winslow describes occur far too frequently on the U.S.-Mexican border, where cartels kidnap and decapitate to send their messages.

(I cannot forget an image I once saw posted by the New York Times, of two consular workers murdered in their car in Ciudad Juarez. The picture showed the front of the car, the windshield dappled with gunshot holes. There is a man and woman inside - a husband and wife - both leaning towards the passenger side door, still buckled into their seats. Both are covered in blood. The woman was pregnant. Their daughter in the backseat was unhurt. Fiction cannot devise horror to surpass the realities of this sad world).

The Power of the Dog is a relentless indictment of the “War of Drugs.” Sometimes this is effective, as when Winslow is showing us the mistakes as they’re made. At other times, when Keller gets on his high-horse, it can be like a screed. Interestingly, Winslow’s critique on American drug policy seems to focus on suppression and interdiction. Keller is constantly in conflict with timid bureaucrats who won’t go far enough to get the bad guys; or with a Federal Government that is willing to turn a blind eye to inter-cartel housecleaning, as long as it decreases the gross amount of product coming across the border. Winslow doesn’t seem to be looking for a paradigm change; instead, he wants interdiction done better.

The reason I find this interesting is that focus on the supply side is a fool’s game. You are never going to “win” by going after the cartels, and especially not after their pawns. Every victory over a supplier simply ups the price, making the risk of drug-running even more attractive. The focus has to be on the demand side of the equation. It means focusing on drug treatment and addiction north of the Rio Grande. The actual end-result of drug smuggling – the experience of the user – is never mentioned in The Power of the Dog. This is rather glaring in a novel that encompasses just about everything else.

Of course, this “solution” to the drug problem is far easier said than done. I work with drug users. There might not be anything on earth quite as frustrating. Getting people clean is a long, expensive, intensive, expensive, difficult, and expensive process that embodies the notion of one step forward, two (or three, or four) steps back. Did I mention it is expensive? It certainly doesn’t make for sexy fiction, or good public relations visuals. Likely, a massive demand-side resolution will never be implemented.

Anyway, that’s beside the point.

This is a great work of fiction. Unfortunately, it derives from ugly truth.
Profile Image for brian   .
248 reviews2,989 followers
August 31, 2015
CIA, DEA, FBI, NSA, NAFTA, irish mob, italian mafia, cold warriors, sandanistas, contras, high-priced whores, corrupt priests, reagan, bush, giuliani, colombian druglords, mexican cartels, campesinos, gomeros, torture, despair, murder, etc. this is one sprawling motherfuck of a great book. this guy leaves lehane pelecanos and any of his contemporary crimers (um, except ellroy) in the dust. gotta read more of his shit... viva don winslow y donkey don powell!
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,153 reviews1,688 followers
July 13, 2021


Psicologia ridotta all’osso (un osso molto rosicchiato).
Grandi descrizioni di quelle che mi viene da definire scenografie (interni ed esterni). Si tratta di un autore e di un libro che sono entrambi in forte prossimità cinematografica.
Dialoghi curati.
Azione, azione, azione.
Violenza, crudeltà, sangue, torture: Tony Montana in confronto è un chierichetto.

Winslow è stato un investigatore privato, consulente per studi legali e compagnie di assicurazione, esperto di tecniche antisequestro per personale diplomatico: si sente e si apprezza nella lettura, ci sono elementi snodi e particolari che altrimenti sarebbe difficile incontrare. O ha una grande fantasia, o una grande conoscenza della materia che racconta (la seconda non esclude la prima).
Qua e là si ha la sensazione che descriva situazioni già viste al cinema, ma non disturba.


A me disturbano di più le 715 pagine, un po’ troppe: soprattutto considerando che ho avuto la sensazione di più inizi e più finali.
L’happy ending mi sembra un po’ appiccicato, non regge bene dopo tutto quello che precede.

Giovanni Paolo II è un papa che ogni tanto fa un po’ di confusione: dovunque vada bacia la terra e calpesta la gente.

Profile Image for Richard.
984 reviews360 followers
August 5, 2017
I've owned this book for years but kept putting it off until now. I got about 50 pages in and knew that I should have gotten around to this earlier and was peeved at myself for wasting time this year on more disappointing reads. This is the type of book that doesn't come around too often. A book that finds the perfect balance between it's attention to detail and research, it's sensitivity to character, and it's great structure, all wrapped up in passionate prose.

Imagine a mix of Traffic, Sicario, and Narcos, with elements of The Godfather and then multiply it by 3, then you'll get a sense of what to expect from The Power of the Dog, which details an epic battle during America's unwinnable War on Drugs, a 30-year battle between DEA agent Art Keller and Mexican cartel lord Adán Barrera, who were once good buddies. We witness the rise of both men within their respective ranks, and as the feud strengthens, they struggle to stay one step ahead of the other, dragging others into the trenches with them, into a war that neither side can truly win.

This was one of the longest books I read this year, but it felt like I sped through reading it. It was endlessly engaging and one of the most compulsively readable books for me this year. Every character was fascinating and I found myself rooting for all of them, especially Art Keller and his unwavering drive to bring down the Barreras, and Sean Callan, a young New Yorker whose fateful decision to protect his buddy leads him into a life of violence where he faces a constant struggle to keep his morals. And it's all very tragic, because all of this violence and death is part of a silly "War" on Drugs where the priorities and the objectives have been skewed big time, a war that should've ended a long time ago.

You know those addictive tv shows that you can't help but binge-watch on Netflix, Prime, or HBONow all weekend? Well, here's one in book form. And guess what? There's a sequel.
Profile Image for Guille.
757 reviews1,551 followers
August 22, 2020

“Existe el dinero y la falta de dinero -dice Adán-, el poder y la falta de poder. Y punto.”
Una adictiva e impactante novela repleta de esa clase de gentuza que nos hace desear fervientemente que exista un infierno, que transforman al cielo en ese anhelado lugar desde el que disfrutar eternamente de la visión de sus tormentos, que nos convierten justo en lo que detestamos. Gentuza que está a los dos lados de esa supuesta línea que marca la ley y que unos y otros desdibujan a voluntad. Gentuza obsesionada por el poder, por el imperio sobre las vidas ajenas, adictas al placer de saber que serán siempre obedecidos, sea lo que sea y pese a quién pese.
“El dinero siempre gana.”
Si siguen mi entusiasta recomendación leerán escenas terribles, duras y crueles, se indignarán, se horrorizarán con esta descripción de la ruta de la droga que formaron Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, México y EE.UU y en la que se detallan las conexiones entre los narcos, grupos políticos, cuerpos policiales y organizaciones paramilitares y la propia CIA en negocios de todo tipo. Un horror que aumenta infinitamente si confiamos en las palabras del autor:
“Hay personajes ficticios y en más de una ocasión he mezclado y fundido acontecimientos; pero hay muy poco en el libro que no haya realmente sucedido.”
Una gran organización que derrocó e impuso gobiernos, que arruinó y ayudó a levantar economías de amplias zonas e incluso de países enteros que en realidad se vendieron a los narcos, que, con el dinero de la droga, aplastó las corrientes izquierdistas que surgieron en Centroamérica y Sudamérica entre los años 70 y 90. Todo estaba aprobado y apoyado por el país que se presenta ante el mundo como el líder de la democracia y la libertad.
“En El Salvador, escuadrones de la muerte de extrema derecha asesinaron a políticos izquierdistas y líderes sindicales. En 1989, en el campus de la Universidad Central Americana de El Salvador, oficiales del ejército salvadoreño ametrallaron a seis jesuítas, a una criada y a su hija de pocos meses con rifles provistos de mira telescópica. En aquel mismo año, el gobierno de Estados Unidos envió quinientos mil millones de dólares en ayudas al gobierno salvadoreño. A finales de los ochenta, unas setenta y cinco mil personas habían sido asesinadas. Guatemala doblaba esa cifra…

Durante la larga guerra contra los rebeldes marxistas, más de ciento cincuenta mil personas fueron asesinadas, y otras cuarenta mil desaparecieron. Niños sin hogar fueron abatidos en las calles. Estudiantes universitarios fueron asesinados… En todo momento, soldados norteamericanos aportaron entrenamiento, asesoría y equipo, incluidos los helicópteros que transportaban a los asesinos a los campos de exterminio...

Luis Carlos Galán, el candidato presidencial del Partido Liberal que contaba con kilómetros de ventaja en las encuestas, fue eliminado en el verano del 89. Bernardo Jaramillo Osa, el líder de la UP, fue abatido a tiros cuando bajaba de un avión en Bogotá la primavera siguiente. Carlos Pizarro, el candidato del M-19 a la presidencia, fue asesinado unas semanas después.”
Aunque parezca increíble también había gente dispuesta a combatir a estas organizaciones, incorruptibles empeñados en la inútil persecución de esta gentuza que, si no se iban de rositas mediante ignominiosos acuerdos con los gobiernos, eran rápidamente sustituidos por otra gentuza más ambiciosa y con mayor falta de escrúpulos. Muchos cayeron en el intento, otros muchos arruinaron su vida y la de sus familias, pues hasta para hacer el bien hace falta poder y no se consigue poder siguiendo las reglas. El resultado es que solo han cambiado los actores, la película sigue siendo la misma.
“Soy como un alcohólico, piensa Art. Ha oído a bebedores reformados contar que iban en coche a la licorería, sin dejar de jurar que no lo iban a hacer, entrar y jurar que no iban a comprar, comprar y jurar que no iban a beber lo que acababan de comprar.
Después se lo bebían.
Yo soy como esos tipos, piensa Art, arrastrado hacia Tío (el jefe narco) como un bebedor a la botella.”
Y lo más gracioso de todo es que hasta estos íntegros salvaguardas de la ley contribuyen a la riqueza de los narcos encareciendo el producto y, por tanto, aumentando los beneficios, dificultando la competencia al elevar los costes de distribución y seguridad, lo que es en sí mismo, esto de la seguridad, un negocio paralelo de lo más lucrativo a pesar de la necesaria colaboración, nada barata, de policías, soldados, agentes de aduanas y guardias costeras, funcionarios de todo tipo, políticos y gobernantes. Mucha gente interesada en que nada cambie.
“Los norteamericanos se apoderan de un producto que crece literalmente en los árboles y lo transforman en una mercancía valiosa. Sin ellos, la cocaína y la marihuana serían como las naranjas, y en lugar de ganar miles de millones pasándolas de contrabando, yo ganaría unos pocos centavos trabajando como un negro en algún campo de California, recogiéndolas.”

P.D. ¿Cinco estrellas? ¿Las mismas que a Proust, Llosa, Walser, Marías…? Pues sí, las mismas, aunque no de la misma naturaleza. La luz y energía que desprenden unas y otras estrellas son muy diversas, aunque pueden ser igual de potentes. Simplemente están dirigidas a partes distintas de nuestro cerebro y de nuestro sistema nervioso.

Tampoco puedo evitar terminar estos comentarios mencionando lo mucho que le choca a un españolito como yo leer en boca de mafiosos irlandeses o italianos de Nueva York los muchos modismos mexicanos que la novela contiene. Algo que seguramente pasará de igual forma en la otra dirección con otras traducciones.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,824 followers
April 8, 2019
This is not my favorite Don Winslow novel. I’d put it at #3 after Savages and The Winter of Frankie Machine. However, considering that Winslow has written over a dozen books and for my money is one of the best and most underrated guys working in crime fiction today, getting a bronze medal is pretty damn good.

Running from the mid-1970s until the turn of the century, Winslow’s historical fiction illustrates the difference between the stated public policy of America’s drug war against the covert backing of the drug trade to keep communism out of Central and South America.

Art Keller is a former CIA agent who got disgusted with running assassination missions in Vietnam and jumped to the newly formed Drug Enforcement Agency where he thought he might be able to do some good. Art gets assigned to Mexico where he meets the Barrera family who feeds him the intel to destroy most of the existing heroin trade and poppy fields. Art later learns that the Barreras used him to eliminate the competition and give them the opportunity to set up an organization that will get rich running cocaine from South America into the United States.

Blood gets spilled and Art’s feud with the Barreras gets personal, but Art’s attempt to legally break up the Mexican pipeline are thwarted by his own government’s secret programs to fund anti-communist efforts in South America by allowing or enabling the trade to flourish as the crack epidemic hits inner cites while Nancy Reagan tells kids to Just Say No!

Art’s obsession and the war with the Barreras takes a heavy toll on everyone involved like a respected priest, a smart call girl, and a Mafia hit man from New York.

This reminds me a bit of Elroy’s American Tabloid with Winslow using a group of fictional characters tearing themselves to bits on the sharp hidden edges of history, and the style is even a bit similar. Winslow also does a great job of using the story to create a broader theme about the ultimate futility and hypocrisy of the drug war.

My only complaint is that the end of the book seems a bit less ambitious and kind of a let down compared to the build up. It’s like something you’d see in a Hollywood movie, but this is still an epic crime story written in a unique style by one of my favorites.

**Update 7/17/2015 - Don Winslow went on to make this a trilogy.

The Cartel.)

The Border
Profile Image for Matt.
34 reviews47 followers
April 20, 2019
I have been to Mexico one time in my life. I spent most of the time sitting poolside, sipping on drinks with neon colors and umbrellas floating in the ice. I rode the choppy waves of the pacific ocean on a jet ski and an atv along the sandy beach while the sun was setting. I haven’t been to South America, but when I think of South America, the same associations come to mind. I think about dancing in the streets during Carnival in Brazil and looking down on the rest of civilization at Machu Picchu in Peru. I was well aware of the drug problem in the United States. Working in the inner city, I’ve seen the effects of drugs being so readily available. What I wasn’t aware of was how the drugs made it to the U.S. or the people that are involved in getting them here. Don Winslow gave me a swift kick in the ass, woke me up from vacation, and pulled back the curtain on the dark and seedy side of Mexico and South America.

Part historical fiction, part noir, the story follows a slew of characters from the 1970’s to the 2000’s, highlighting the different ways that people get involved in the war on drugs on both the law enforcement side and the drug trafficking side. The main character is Art Keller. Art is an idealistic CIA agent that wants to get the bad taste out of his mouth from his part in the farce that was Vietnam. He wants to do something important for his country. So he trades in one acronym for another and joins the DEA. The foil to Keller is the Barerra family, who rise to the top in the race to cartel supremacy in Mexico. Some other characters that get involved are a high end call girl, a priest, an irish mobster, and the enemies made by the Barerra family. The book is well researched and includes characters that were loosely based off of real life players in the war on drugs.

The key to the book for me was Art Keller’s character arc. He starts the book with the naive idealism that everyone who wants to change the world possesses. But Art can’t outsmart or gain ground on the absurdity that is the war on drugs. The drug trade as it is now, thrives because drugs are illegal. The only people that sell and distribute drugs are criminals. This attracts the most violent and corrupt criminals in a race to the top of the cartel food chain. The people put in a position to try and stop these criminals have to deal with the reality of the situation. They have two options when faced with an ultimatum by cartels. They can chose to try and fight them and get tortured and murdered or get paid to keep their mouth shut and keep the peace. In the end, Keller finds himself on the losing end of a game that he realizes isn’t winnable and is left wondering if the end justifies the means.
Profile Image for Overhaul.
272 reviews611 followers
April 26, 2022
La guerra contra los narcos al desnudo. Un thriller épico, coral y sangriento que explora los rincones de la miseria humana. Demasiados..

Década de los setenta: el gobierno de Estados Unidos emprende una lucha sin cuartel contra el narcotráfico en México. Art Keller, un joven agente de la DEA de origen hispano, no tarda en obtener resultados y acabar con el patrón local. Esto fue un error fatal. Pues el nuevo heredero del imperio del narcotráfico es Adán Barrera, y ambos saben cómo ha llegado a serlo.

Encadenados a la misma guerra, se encuentran Nora Hayden, una hermosa prostituta de alto standing adiestrada para hacer enloquecer a los hombres; el padre Parada, un cura católico confidente de esta y empeñado en ayudar al pueblo, y Billy Boy Callan, un chico taciturno, convertido en asesino a sueldo por azar.

Narcovaqueros, mafia al puro y clásico estilo italoamericano, con una jauría de irlandeses armados hasta los dientes, policías corruptos, tenemos un soplón con el sugerente y sincero sobrenombre de "Mamada" y también un santo milagroso, todo esto y más conforman el mundo de este thriller épico, coral y sangriento sobre la búsqueda de la redención y el poder.

El poder del perro se trata de una epopeya arrolladora de 720 páginas sobre el tráfico de drogas. Cuenta una historia ficticia que está enmarcada por hechos de la vida real. Comienza en 1975, con una mirada cercana a la afamada Operación Cóndor, y termina en 2004, justo en el momento en el que la guerra contra las drogas se ha moldeado en un nuevo aspecto posterior al 11 de septiembre. En medio de todo eso suceden algunas cosas, muy, muy malas.

Documentación de 10 llevada con realismo, y da miedo, pues la realidad supera a la ficción y en la ambición, crueldad, empatía y lucha a costa de vidas ajenas, no hay nada que le gane al ser humano.

Estamos ante un libro que logra conmover e impactar. Una lectura desgarradora y que está magníficamente escrito. Palabras de mi estimado compañero de Tercios, Don Labi. He dicho

La columna central de la narrativa es la lucha entre Art Keller, el estricto agente de la DEA, y Adán Barrera, pongamos que es el Michael Corleone de los cárteles mexicanos. Keller está obsesionado con acabar con la organización de Adán. Este motivo simple es la única constante en un libro muy extenso, pero joder, como engancha.

Personajes de todo tipo de personalidades como Sean Callan, es un asesino a sueldo irlandés con una carga de culpa, Nora, una prostituta de lujo con un gran corazón un sacerdote incorruptible llamado Padre Parada, y Ramos, el último policía bueno de México, que tiene una habilidad sobrenatural para encontrar a los malos.

La narrativa de Winslow tiene mucho nivel a lo largo de toda la narración, va juntando todas las piezas. Y hay piezas realmente increíbles. Un golpe de la mafia. Un tiroteo en las calles. Una redada de agentes antidrogas. Incluso el terremoto de la Ciudad de México de 1985. El poder del perro de principio a fin está repleto de escenas memorables.

También es emocionalmente poderoso. En su prólogo, Winslow nos sumerge en su historia con la imagen de un niño muerto. Asi sin explicación, y sin contexto. Después cientos de páginas más tarde, regresa a esta escena, y el significado que desarrolla al colocarla finalmente dentro del marco de la historia es ingenioso. La verdad es un libro de 10.

A partir de 1975, Winslow nos lleva a través de treinta años de altibajos de la guerra sucia de Estados Unidos contra los cárteles mexicanos de la droga. Sigue a policías en ambos lados de la frontera, algunos limpios, la mayoría con un brazo en las sombra. Capos, escuadrones de la CIA, asesinos oficiales y no oficiales, prostitutas de diferentes niveles, militares con y sin uniforme y los que se interponen en sus caminos.

En el camino, tenemos una historia suburbana de la intromisión estadounidense en América Latina y la captura paralela de los gobiernos del área por la inmensa marea de dinero de la droga que lo envolvió todo. La crítica que hace Winslow en el libro sobre la política de drogas estadounidense parece centrarse más en lo que es la represión y la interdicción.

Aparte de la acción frenética, Winslow también se encarga de mostrarnos el panorama general del tráfico de drogas. Salta de un lugar a otro para mostrarnos toda la tela de araña. Nos mudamos de las selvas centroamericanas a la Ciudad de México a los cruces fronterizos de EE. UU y México, a la ciudad de Nueva York.

Nos muestra la interacción entre el crimen organizado mexicano y el crimen organizado estadounidense, centrándose en la mafia, en la mesa de los peces gordos en lugar de las pandillas callejeras en los que muchos se centran, junto con la complicidad del gobierno mexicano.

Logra una transición perfecta entre el alcance de todo a lo que puede llegar y la intimidad con la que lo hace, y para mostrarnos desde un panorama general como para darnos los detalles más pequeños, granito a granito de arena..✍️
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,868 reviews16.5k followers
May 19, 2018
“Deliver my soul from the sword; my love from the power of the dog.
Psalms 22:20”

A ubiquitous theme in Don Winslow’s brilliant writing is an atavistic examination of power as a force of nature. More than that, power as currency – it is a neutral element, existing as a tool to be used for various reasons and in multiple contexts.

There is the pre-human, foundational power of sinew, tooth and claw – the muscular, violent power of strength and speed in martial contest seen in modern use as military might but existing in a microcosm on any playground, gym or bar. This is the power of one against another in its most animalistic form.

But there is also the power of persuasion – of sex and courage. A beautiful woman has power, latent in her every move, glance and gesture. Likewise any observer of a bantam rooster – fowl or human – knows the power of confidence. In popular crime fiction, this is frequently demonstrated by the tough Irish cop with whom no one will mess.

There is the power of God – manipulated and personified by the clergy, and by the belief and faith in observants. There is an old saying that religion has caused more wars than any other source. Whether as a motivator or as a pretext for land or other power exchange, theology can be a force that exerts its power over us in clear or metaphysical ways.

Winslow’s 2005 novel begins with a government operator in Vietnam who transfers his jungle skills closer to home to take the war against the communists to the war on drugs as a DEA agent. The author fills his decades in scope narrative with a heady mix of tasty characters to get to know. From the possessed by ideal agent, to the family Mexican drug dealers, to the New York hired hitmen and Mafiosos, to the government black operators who are just gangsters at a different level. Winlsow’s Nora is also a deliciously complicated player – a high priced prostitute, really more of a latter-day courtesan who exerts her considerable power over all those who come into her sphere of influence.

Two characters who stand out are Sean Callan and Sal Scachi. Callan, “the coldest mother***** I ever saw” was an inner city Irish loner who discovered his particular power of violence by accident in a bar in New York. We follow his wet career of assassinations and violence throughout the book. Winslow reveals Callan as a reluctant killer, one who is tortured by his “ghosts” and who seeks absolution while always drawn to one more job.

Scachi reminds me of Cormac McCarthy’s Judge Holden from Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West – a Mephistophelian personification of evil and a demonstration of Winslow’s theme that government is the biggest gang on the street.

Brutal, authoritative, and compelling, this is also clearly a very well researched work as Winslow outlines the socio-economic effect of the drug trade and the parallel war on drugs on our global culture.

Highly recommended though it’s unmitigated violence will not be appropriate for some readers.

Profile Image for Francesc.
391 reviews193 followers
September 19, 2019
He disfrutado muchísimo. ¡Qué novela más redonda de principio a fin! ¡Qué capacidad de enlazar historias! ¡Durante tantos años! Como van saliendo personajes y piensas: "qué tiene que ver este tipo con México", "y esta tía, qué pinta aquí?" Y después lo descubres. Te lo va enseñando poco a poco. Y lo narra muy bien. Con crueldad y con ternura. Con violencia y con suavidad.
Es dura. Muy dura. Hay mucha sangre, cierto. Pero también mucho amor y amistad.


Y, si esto funciona así (que no lo pongo en duda), da miedo.

I have enjoyed very much. What a rounded novel from beginning to end! What a capacity to link stories! For so many years! As characters come out and you think: "what does this guy have to do with Mexico", "and this baby, what does she here?" And then you find out. He is teaching you little by little. And he narrates it very well. With cruelty and tenderness. With violence and softness.
It is hard. Very hard. There is a lot of blood, right. But also much love and friendship.


And, if this works like this (I don't doubt it), it's scary.
Profile Image for Justo Martiañez.
376 reviews116 followers
January 8, 2021
5/5 Estrellas.

Madre mía, pedazo de libro. Esto es una enciclopedia del narcotráfico con todas sus implicaciones, desde los comienzos del cártel de Sinaloa en los años 70 hasta principios de los años 2000. Supongo que en los siguientes libros de la trilogía avanzaremos hasta tiempos actuales.

Hay una cosa que debemos tener clara, pese a todos los crímenes perpetrados, financiados o inducidos por los narcos, el origen de todo es el consumo. Los países occidentales son los mayores consumidores de estupefacientes del mundo y los miles de millones de dólares y de euros que genera este consumo, son los que mantienen en pie el narcotráfico. Por mucho que se invadan países, se quemen cosechas, se ponga en el poder a dictadores, mientras haya demanda en nuestro primer mundo el negocio seguirá existiendo y la droga llegará a los consumidores, caiga quien caiga, muera quien muera y haya que corromper a quien sea necesario. Los países occidentales, y sobre todo EEUU, prefieren invertir, de cara a la opinión pública, en ingentes programas antidroga en Colombia o México, pero no encaran de ninguna manera el problema real que está en su propia casa: el consumo.
El panorama que nos plantea el libro en cuanto a la infiltración mafiosa en Centroamérica, sobre todo en México, es desolador, políticos de todos los colores y al más alto nivel comprados, todas las fuerzas de seguridad infiltradas, elecciones presidenciales manipuladas, la economía secuestrada por los dólares del narcotráfico, candidatos presidenciales asesinados, la iglesia rural en contacto con el pueblo, luchando y siendo asesinados, mientras la jerarquía vaticana mira para otro lado y se alía con el poder.....pero todavía es mas terrible la participación en esta "guerra" de las distintas agencias federales estadounidenses: CIA, DEA, FBI, Departamento de estado: ¿Es posible que la CIA utilizara la venta de drogas y a los narcos, para financiar la lucha paramilitar y gubernamental contra las guerrillas de izquierda en Latinoamérica, durante la guerra fría? Los miles de millones que aporta EEUU en sus programas antidroga en los países productores, ¿Para qué se utilizan?, para combatir a los narcos o para armar a los gobiernos y las milicias paramilitares como la contra Nicaragüense, o en Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Panamá, Chiapas......miles de muertos, miles de adictos al crack, en fin con que sólo una mínima parte de lo narrado sea verdad (y parece que lo es), sería repugnante, inmoral, no tengo palabras.....

La luchas de poder en el seno de las bandas de narcos, están narradas con toda su crudeza y violencia desmedida. Todos los personajes están narrados con maestría y perfectamente desarrollados.
Es un libro que hay que leer si se quiere conocer el origen del "mal" en nuestro tiempo, y ojo, que el mal no son sólo los narcos, y eso si que da miedito.
En definitiva, un gran libro, no sé si podré superar esta lectura durante este año, he puesto el nivel muy, muy alto.
La única pega, como lector en español de España, es ver a todos los personajes: Estadounidenses, mafiosos de origen italiano o irlandés hablando como mexicanos, que si pinche por allí, que si la chingada por allá. No pega para nada, creo que habría que haber hecho un esfuerzo en la traducción, y dar a cada uno una jerga más acorde a su origen, no tiene ningún sentido esta traducción. Fuera de ahí, todo perfecto. Muy, Muy recomendable.
Profile Image for Labijose.
959 reviews418 followers
January 12, 2016
A masterpiece from beginning to end!

Estaba terminando la novela y escucho en las noticias sobre la captura del “Chapo” Guzmán por las autoridades mexicanas, tras su espectacular fuga previa, lo que me ha servido como una “conclusión dentro de otra conclusión” de la novela en cuestión, ya que el personaje de “El Chapo” es la rencarnación misma del jefe del cártel novelado Miguel Ángel Barrera. Y sonrío en mi interior, porque, como dice Don Winslow casi al final de la narración: “¿Qué más da?, si detrás de él vendrán otros como él, o incluso peores y más sanguinarios. Y la historia continuará.”
Para mí, “The power of the dog” es una excelente novela, una obra maestra en su género. Destaca en todos sus elementos: Descripción, personajes, diálogos, ambientación histórica, suspense, trama. No he encontrado un solo fallo en sus más de 700 páginas. Quizás es que el autor es uno de mis favoritos, pero he leído novelas suyas que no llegan ni a la mitad del nivel que alcanza esta.
Es un gustazo seguir las vicisitudes de Art keller y de todos los personajes que aparecen y desaparecen (asesinados, por supuesto) a lo largo de tres décadas de lucha anti-narcóticos, con sus corruptos y sus corruptelas, tanto dentro como fuera de los organismos encargados de luchar contra esta terrible epidemia. No falta nadie, desde las Mafias, pasando por la DEA, los capos, las FARC, los políticos, Chiapas, y así hasta llegar a la población que sufre sus barbaries y no tiene más remedio que elegir a quién servir, adaptarse o morir.
Esta novela vendría a ser como “El Padrino” de Puzo. Una obra maestra en su género. Violenta y brutal, como por desgracia es necesario en este tipo de relatos, pero que no puedes parar de leer, aunque le robes horas al sueño.
Poco más puedo comentar. Habrá lectores,as que no podrán con ella, pero yo he disfrutado con su lectura de principio a fin.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,690 followers
March 2, 2016
"Deliver my soul from the sword; my love from the power of the dog."
- Psalms 22:20


"Art can't decide whether the War on Drugs is an obscene absurdity or an absurd obscenity. In either case, it's a tragic, bloody farce."
- Don Winslow, The Power of the Dog

Like most book series, I began the Power of the Dog series backwards. I read The Cartel first and this one second. Ass Backwards. But It didn't feel like I was reading it in reverse as much as just digging deeper.

Don Winslow's look at the Mexican Drug War/US War on Drugs is told through the primary perspective of Art Keller, a lone wolf, obsessive DEA agent. But the story actually has four (or five) primary narrative threads. There is Art Keller - DEA, Nora Hayden - High class call girl, Father Prada - Catholic Bishop/Cardinal, Adán Barrera - Cartel/Federation head, and Sean Callan - Irish gangster and hitman. These characters are all suffering from their own needs, their own stories they can't seem to escape, and their own cold pragmatism. These are characters that seem all able to survive through a pragmatic realism and a cold calculation that both allows for their survival but also contributes to the suffering around them (Father Prada excluded).

Like in the best of Le Carré, the best parts of these novels contemplates the evils committed by bureaucracies trying to maintain control (the Catholic Church) or power (Mexican government), or ideological visions (CIA and DEA). It is a dizzying hole to look down when you start thinking of the evil that gets perpetrated in the name of Apple Pie and God.


Obviously, this is fiction, especially the actual narratives around Art Keller, etc. But like the best of Historical Fiction, it is able to convey the temperature and altitude of the real world it is describing. Often good historical fiction provides an understanding that almost surpasses good history or biography in relaying the truth about certain situations. 'The Power of the Dog' and 'The Cartel' together do this for the Mexican Drug war. Close your eyes after reading these novels and you almost can see how close to the truth these fictions can be. Classic historical fiction does this by fictionalizing the primary characters and activities, but keeping the setting and the scenes as close to reality as possible. This series puts Winslow next to Norman Mailer, John Le Carré, James Ellroy, and Alan Furst in the historical fiction/thriller category.
Profile Image for Xabi1990.
1,972 reviews850 followers
July 23, 2019
Winslow tiene un libro que se llama "Salvajes" ... pero este libro sí es realmente salvaje.

La sinopsis os dice de que va. Yo sólo os añado que se me puso mal cuerpo en varios pasajes, así de cruda y fielmente te presenta esas salvajadas por parte de las mafias de la droga. Espeluznante.

Esto lo escribí al leerlo, allá por el 2011
A favor : muy bien escrito, te engancha desde el comienzo. Mantiene la tensión narrativa a lo largo de toda su extensión, que es mucha. Describe el mundo de las drogas, del narcotráfico mejicano, con un realismo crudo, con pocas concesiones a la sonrisa.

En contra : pues únicamente que yo soy más tierno que el día de la madre y no leo a gusto novelas con tanto realismo. Vamos, que no es mi estilo de lectura.

Pero no dejo de reconocer que a pesar de que no sea mi estilo es una novela muy lograda. ¿Recomendable?. Para quien no sea tan “tierno” como yo, sí. Aquí matan a culpables, matan a inocentes, a mujeres, a niños, a curas. Aquí torturan, violan, planean atrocidades, se alian hasta con el demonio para conseguir pasta o poder, para detener a los comunistas o a los narcos. Aquí es culpable el gobierno mejicano, el norteamericano, la iglesia, personal de todas las agencias (DEA, CIA, federales mejicanos, etc)…

Uff, ya digo que a mi me gusta leer novela que no me deje mal cuerpo. Esta te deja la idea de que vivimos -los españolitos “normales”- en una burbuja que nos aisla de la maldad que hay alrededor nuestro, que existe a nuestro lado y no vemos.

Pues solo le pido a Dios que no me toquen en la espalda las “garras del perro”.

Repito : Gloin, cabr..,no leas mucho de esto que luego tienes pesadillas. Yo, conste, que casi las tengo.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,562 reviews859 followers
October 26, 2021
2006 review: Looking back on when I read this; I just really liked the title, but then on seeing its length and sprawling war on drugs story, I sort of got distracted It never truly grabbed my attention?), and never really got to grips with this, despite reading it through to the end.

So I my rating this read 5 out of 12, is for the author not being able to keep me interested, although I was also distracted by my life at the time, so this is yet another book from the Noughties, that I need to re-read.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,448 reviews7,552 followers
July 7, 2021
There’s only about a billion and a half reviews out there that are far superior to anything I could possibly barf out, so I’m going to keep this simple. This series pops up occasionally and I always manage to avoid it – mainly because although I read all the time, I generally do not enjoy puppysquishers and try to leave them at an arm’s length. The exception was made this go around due to the fact that it was a four day weekend and I was out of excuses.

In case you don’t know what this is about – it’s about the drug cartel. It starts back in the ‘70s with Mary Jane, takes us through Nancy Reagan “winning” the war on drugs and continues to morph and reinvent itself all the way through the late ‘90s via Mexico, Colombia, California, the East Coast – you name it. There’s about eleventy-twelve characters that you get introduced to from the DEA to the mob to priests and whores to the cartel itself and at some point they all become intertwined. It is an undertaking of epic proportions and you can tell how much research went into creating it on nearly every page.

There’s only a couple things I’m even going to say since I’m so late to this party. First, if you are in need of a sensitivity reader or a trigger warning this is NOT the book for you. Me, on the other hand???? I looked a little something like this upon meeting the Barrera brothers . . . . .

And second, now that I’ve actually read this I’m going to double-down on my statement last year of HOW IN THE FUCK DO PEOPLE GIVE THIS A PASS BUT GOT ALL ASSHURT ABOUT AMERICAN DIRT???? Oh yeah, because they didn’t really care about the issue at hand, they just wanted to whine that they weren’t getting a big enough payday. I do wonder, though, how Winslow has not been offed. I mean homeboy ain’t afraid to drop any names – even big dogs in the government or giant corporations like Monsanto.

Anyway, if you’re intimidated by the vast amount of pages in this and the other two books in the series, know that I feel your pain. Also know that it appears FX is working on turning the whole shebang into a weekly television program which my husband cannot wait to premier. In the interim we rewatched a little Reservoir Dogs to get our blood, gore and F word content this week . . . .

Profile Image for Nood-Lesse.
315 reviews156 followers
October 17, 2019
Si diventa ciò che si odia

720 pagine, decine di commenti positivi da parte di lettori eterogenei. Avevo una certa ritrosia ad affrontare il libro, nonostante lo possedessi da svariati anni. Sono partito e quasi subito mi è presa la frenesia della pagina successiva. È un tipo di lettura alla Montecristo (non sperate però che agiti le vostre passioni allo stesso modo) non c’è da sforzarsi è sufficiente lasciarsi trasportare dalle vicende dove tradimento, crudeltà, sesso e vendetta si alternano sapientemente. Si prosegue una pagina via l’altra compulsivamente, vi sono più personaggi che in un romanzo russo ma non c’è bisogno di fare degli schemi per raccapezzarsi, le parentele sono gestibili i patronimici assenti i soprannomi messicani piacevoli. Siamo infatti a Tjuana (*1), molto vicino al confine con gli USA, quello che Trump vorrebbe sbarrare con un muro impenetrabile. “Il Messico, così lontano da Dio, così vicino agli Stati uniti”. Quando lo visitai non ne percepii la pericolosità, lo feci negli anni che sono oggetto di questa narrazione, ma ero assai distante dai luoghi dove essa è ambientata. Alcune pagine sono raccapriccianti, le sevizie a cui vengono sottoposti i soplóns (le spie) sono ancora più tremende di quelle riservate ai traditori. Essere una spia è peggiore che essere un assassino in quasi tutte le parti del mondo, compreso il territorio fra i 35 e i 47° di latitudine nord. Don Wislow spiega come il commercio della droga sia un affare multinazionale in grado di coinvolgere mafia, CIA. DEA, FARC e poi governi e clero. Nel paradigma disegnato dallo scrittore i servizi segreti degli Stati Uniti avrebbero collaborato con i cartelli centro americani della droga perché essi finanziassero il contrasto alle formazioni comuniste di quelle zone. La storia ha per protagonista il poliziotto Arthur Keller, un sottoposto duro e puro che finirà per sacrificare venti anni della propria vita per vendicare l’uccisione di un uomo della sua squadra. L’inizio della sua vendetta è fin troppo liscio, bisognerà attendere una cinquantina di pagine per recuperare la tensione narrativa e il ritmo. La cosa che mi ha convinto di meno è stato il finale tant’è che rimestando una celebre classificazione di Paolo Villaggio concludo con











Profile Image for Adam.
558 reviews348 followers
July 9, 2011
Power of the Dog can sit next to other books that portray the American Dream as dark bruise, such as Libra, American Tabloid, and Dog Soldiers, but it may feel uncomfortable as it lacks their power of prose, depth of character (none of the characters are cartoons though), and stylistic heights: but it does have their ambition and authenticity in its vision of history as double-crosses, compromises, and bloody spectacle. But this unfair as this is really a thriller at heart (especially its finale) more inspired by Coppola and Scorsese movies than any literary forebears. It’s odd that a genre entertainment like this tackles more of what is rotten in the world than a lot of capitol “L” literature. This book is also a historical novel and almost everything in it is based on some historical fact. So you get to see the grotesque tapestry of the D.E.A., C.I.A in Latin America, Narcocartels, Farc rebels, wild Irish of Hell’s Kitchen, Mafia, the Catholic Church(and Opus Dei), Heidi Flyss(Sp?) styled prostitution ring, Chinese arms dealings, and genocide in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Columbia in one book, and under the umbrella of America’s war on drugs.
Profile Image for Azumi.
236 reviews167 followers
November 10, 2016
Libra mi cuello de la espada.
Y mi vida de las garras del perro

Novela dura donde las haya. Es sangrienta, brutal, escalofriante y con pasajes que te ponen los pelos de punta y te revuelven el estómago.

Pero me ha encantado.

Pensaba ponerle 4 estrellas, pero solo por los últimos capítulos (que me leí anoche) en los que estuve agarrando fuertemente el libro y en tensión ya por eso le he subido directamente la nota a 5.

Me han gustado todos los personajes, tanto los principales como los secundarios y eso que hay muchos (bueno casi todos en realidad) que son unos verdaderos hijos de…
Pero sobre todo me han gustado Callan y Nora Hayden. Gran personaje Nora, de lo mejor de la novela.
Profile Image for Ryan.
107 reviews18 followers
October 24, 2007
I'm torn on this one because on the one hand, the story is pretty solid. Winslow really unpacks the bureaucracy that makes the war on drugs so snarly. By the time he's through, it's pretty clear which agencies are involved and why and how they're all connected.

Unfortunately, he also writes lines like: "Then the elevator doors slide open and water pours out, like a scene from a bad, grotesque horror film."

And he does it A LOT.

Winslow's good at distilling information, even generating a pretty sweet narrative out of it, but when it comes to actually giving us a human context, he coughs up these creaky-ass images or some dreck like "She was horrified." "He was enraged."

Also, for a novel that includes a vivid depiction of some kid dunked head-first into an overflowing outhouse, Winslow is surprisingly squeamish when it comes to people getting buggered by a hot poker.

"The Doctor uses his oven mitts to pick up a white-hot iron rod, which he inserts--
'Oh my God!' Ernie shouts...'Oh my Goddddddddd!'"

(and wtf does "Oh my Goddddddddd" even sound like? How the hell does anyone make a sound like dddddddddd?)

Profile Image for Skip.
3,288 reviews395 followers
February 14, 2015
A dark novel by Californian Don Winslow about the never-ending "war on drugs" and the various efforts of the U.S. government and its agencies to support or destabilize political regimes in Latin America (a/k/a geopolitical meddling), from the mid-70s thru the late 1990s Most of the novel centers on a Mexican crime family, an honorable DEA agent who slowly loses his soul, and a few Mafioso from NY. Well-researched but also extremely violent with repeated, cataclysmic collateral damage. However, the book wandered off point extensively in the first half, especially an unnecessary start with a scene from much later in the novel. The second half was better, but could have been better edited. Some good complex characters, each with his or her own flaws Father Prada, Nora, Tio, Adan, Art Keller, and Sean Callan.
Profile Image for Anthony Ryan.
Author 71 books8,364 followers
December 21, 2018
The tragic pointlessness of the War on Drugs provides the backdrop to Don Winslow’s crime epic. Over the span of two decades DEA agent Art Keller pursues an obsessive Ahab-like vendetta against Mexican cartel kingpin Adan Berrera, resulting in a grandly addictive tale full of violence, betrayal and moral ambiguity. The supposed good guys do terrible things in the name of justice and the bad guys are both vile and disturbingly human. Written in fast-paced present tense The Power of the Dog has something very much in common with its subject matter; after the first hit, you’re hooked.
Profile Image for Patrick O'Neil.
Author 10 books142 followers
March 7, 2011
Damn, Don Winslow's The Power of the Dog is one hell of an ambitious novel. And it came out in 2005 – why haven't I heard about it until now? Obviously, my fault – I blame the usual culprits of isolation and ignorance. I mean I even read the blurb and didn't think much of the premise, but still decided to give it a go. I was dead wrong – the book rocked, I barely put it down. It's got everything an intense retelling of America's war on drugs needs. It aligns so many real and hypothesized events in history, with Winslow's well crafted fictional characters – that in essence he's just giving us all a history lesson. But this isn't the history of boring school textbooks, it's the stuff of films and sadly, reality – shit that makes you interested and actually think. He's got an Ollie North stand in, and George Bush's indoctrinations of the Contra guns for dope scam. The Red Scare of Central America, Mafia/CIA/Catholic Church involvement, and Narcotraficantes' takeover of Mexico, and the subsequent open border agreement of NAFTA that insured a constant supply of narcotics to America – go congress. Go USA. Go CIA, DEA, FBI – your government doesn't care about you, its citizens. They'd rather see your kids on drugs than commies in Bogotá. It's brutal, it's bloody, it's fucking intense. It should've won the Nation Book Award – read it.
Profile Image for Brandon.
902 reviews233 followers
September 2, 2015
Beginning in the late seventies and stretching over a near thirty year period, Don Winslow’s The Power of the Dog follows organized crime and the devastation left in its wake.

In The Power of the Dog, Winslow heavily features the Mexican drug war, but he also tackles the mob in New York City, prostitution in southern California and the communist scare in South America. All of these locations and events share various characters that weave in and out of conflicts like a high speed motorcycle chase through highway traffic.

Art Keller, while sharing the spotlight with many other characters, is the driving force behind the novel. Through guilt (and later revenge), he fights against the Mexican drug cartel, The Federación, a group he inadvertently had a hand in creating. Keller is basically Batman, driven by revenge and a sense of self-righteousness. He’s fighting an uphill battle against murderous criminals whom he refuses to kill, instead choosing to have them tried by a hopelessly corrupt system as he tries to be a decent man in an indecent world.

However, as brutal as the world of Gotham City is, it ain’t got nothing on the violence littered throughout Winslow’s novel. There are some difficult scenes to get through in this book, so if you’re a little queasy or are unable to stomach graphic violence (one scene involving children in particular), I would probably steer clear. The thing is, this novel is heavily researched (Winslow worked on it for fifteen years prior to publication) as it mirrors many actual historical events, so I can’t imagine Winslow had to get all that creative when it came to the bloodshed.

In the end, The Power of the Dog is a compelling, eye opening novel that’s like nothing I’ve read before.
Profile Image for Charlie Parker.
168 reviews33 followers
June 25, 2022
El poder del perro

Un libro sobre el narcotráfico mexicano tan duro como los mismos narcos. No se anda con tonterías Winslow, lo que escribe lo escribe para que sintamos lo mismo que los protagonistas y nos quedemos con imágenes en la memoria.

Un repaso a la historia de los narcos mexicanos, casi todo lo que escribe el autor es verdad, los nombres de los protagonistas están cambiados, pero solo hay que ver la serie Narcos para darnos cuenta de la similitud de hechos, intercambiar los nombres y ahí los tenemos.

Es una segunda lectura. Leí esta novela hace mucho, antes de la serie, antes de que se popularizasen estas historias que nos han acercado a vislumbrar la verdad o parte de la verdad, mas bien un poco de la verdad, vale, un poquito de la verdad.

La novela está llena de momentos memorables, tiene Winslow un don para narrar acciones como si fuese una secuencia de película de principio a fin sin cambiar de toma. Tenemos como cuenta el terremoto de 1985 y lo escribe con una sencillez desde que empieza hasta que acaba que te hace sentirte allí, genial.

Winslow nos enseña las entrañas de estas mafias, la lucha entre ellos mismos, el poder de los narcos para someter gobiernos, el juego de la CIA para quitar gobiernos incómodos sin importarles drogas o muertes de inocentes.

Una novela con narcos fuera de cualquier ley, una ley incapaz, mucho miedo, sicarios y unos pocos hombres buscando justicia.

Una novela desgarradora, bestial, cruda y real. Una obra maestra absoluta.
Profile Image for Uhtred.
259 reviews11 followers
February 12, 2022
The original title of this book is "The power of the dog" and the average it collects is 3 stars. It is the first time that I have assigned an average and not a general rating, because this book has very adrenaline-pumping parts that are worth 4 stars and very boring parts about the mechanisms that regulate drug exchanges between Mexico and the US that are really too long. The book is in fact more than 700 pages long, but at least 250 could be easily removed and the readability of the book would undoubtedly gain. The plot tells the lives of 3 or 4 main protagonists, some "good" and others "bad", but the balance is really very thin when it comes to drug trafficking and therefore even the policemen certainly cannot be defined as “good”. The plot unfolds in a rather compelling way, with even some pages in pure splatter style and therefore the reading is all in all pleasant and varied.
Profile Image for Lady-R.
220 reviews109 followers
October 7, 2021
Directa, cruda, crudísima, impactante, trepidante, adictiva.
Si HBO hiciera una serie basada en El poder del perro, me olvidaría rápido de Narcos. Si Scorsese la adaptara a la gran pantalla podríamos volver a ver algo al nivel de Goodfellas. Si Villeneuve volviera a rodar una escenaza en la frontera como la de Sicario con el material que se narra aquí, nos daría un jamacuco de la tensión.
No le pongo las 5 estrellas únicamente porque el género negro no es mi favorito para leer, lo prefiero en el cine.

Aún así, el ritmo imprimido a la historia te atrapa rápido y no puedes soltar el libro ni parar de sufrir sabiendo que no está nada alejada de la realidad. Sufrir no tanto por las escenas crueles y sangrientas de torturas, que sí... si no más por la consciencia de que las tramas de corrupción e intereses políticos y eclesiásticos tejidas alrededor del narcotráfico, seguro son producto de una gran labor de documentación.

Don Winslow sabe definir muy bien a sus personajes y consigue despertarte sentimientos hacia cada uno de ellos, aún siendo personajes bastante típicos en estas historias.
Como último apunte, el uso que hace del punto y aparte me ha encantando.

Profile Image for Bill.
929 reviews301 followers
August 27, 2015
I don't read much science fiction anymore. When it was great, it was all about man and the Big Idea, or First Contact. It was all about the discovery of revealing concepts and bizarre things. But after the 80s, Speculative Fiction, as 'they' preferred to call it, brought more of a social consciousness to the stories and explored political structures and how they affected whatever new world we were in.
It didn't take long for me to get sick of it and abandon the genre.

What the...? Did Bill get his reviews mixed up?

No, stay with me. I know what I'm doing. The Power of the Dog has nothing to do with science fiction.
This is an incredibly well researched story about Mexican drug cartels. It is fictionalized, but several reviews that I've seen from news sources have said that this book was so well researched that it could very well be non-fiction, with key names changed.
It is absolutely stunning to get a grasp on what the drug trade in Mexico is all about. Once you realize how the so-called War on Drugs inter-relates the DEA, CIA, police, Governments, Colombia, El Salvatore, Left-Wing Guerrillas, the mafia, the church, it's mind boggling. There are bad guys everywhere, and a LOT of money changing hands, making good guys bad guys.
So strangely enough, I was thinking about the speculative fiction I had read in the past, and the clever little political worlds that these authors had thought up. And I was thinking, sci-fi, you ain't got nothing on this. With the clusterfuck that is the War on Drugs, you simply cannot make this shit up.

The Power of the Dog takes this incredible stage and follows an obsessed DEA agent who is trying to clean up the Mexican drug cartels. 'Clean up' is a euphemism here, kids. This is a violent book. Some very nasty things happen to good and bad people.
It was an excellent read and expose on what is going on down there. Having said that, I must also say that this is also a very long read and I was tiring of it with 100 pages to go. Shootout after shootout, and I just needed an ending. For this, I dock a full star. It's a solid read nonetheless and recommended as a both as a crime thriller and eye opener.
Profile Image for Barry.
363 reviews58 followers
September 26, 2020
The so-called "war on drugs" ineffectively took place over many years, starting with the Nixon administration. In fact, in January, 1970, along with a couple of graduate school buddies, I took a car trip through much of Mexico. When we returned to the US, the customs guys at the border took well over an hour to search our car, an innocuous red VW bug.

The Power of the Dog is an historical novel that follows that so-called war. The main characters are a Drug Enforcement officer, a CIA agent, a Mafia under boss, a contract killer from NYC, a California prostitute, a Mexican drug lord and his enforcer brother and a literal cast thousands of supporting roles.

Winslow does a brilliant job of weaving these characters and the events that they brought about together over a many year period. In fact, there was so much going on that it was difficult to follow everything. I suspect that whatever confusion I experienced had more to do with my failing neuronal processing than the complexity of the book.

If one takes Winslow's writing to heart, several things about the war on drugs became abundantly clear. The level of viciousness, corruption and profit was extraordinary on all sides. The level of competence (and in many cases, nonchalance) on the part of various US government and law enforcement agencies was almost nonexistent.

Winslow does a brilliant job in bringing this period to life in a raw, colorful, intense and realistic manner. He varies his prose according to the characters and setting. He uses dialogue brilliantly to provide, not just the plot, the action and the character but the atmosphere and the extent to which it was emotionally charged.

The book is long - sometimes seeming as long as the so-called war itself - and occasionally became a real effort but those periods were always brief and, on balance, it was well worth the ride.

The End
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