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The Cartel

(Power of the Dog #2)

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  28,204 ratings  ·  2,339 reviews
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 aga
Hardcover, 616 pages
Published June 23rd 2015 by Knopf (first published May 22nd 2015)
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Everyman Yes to both. If you don't want to read about many, many people being killed in many, many gruesome ways, skip this book. If you don't mind that, then …moreYes to both. If you don't want to read about many, many people being killed in many, many gruesome ways, skip this book. If you don't mind that, then go ahead.

But if you have elementary or middle school children who are readers, I strongly recommend not leaving this book in a place where they can access it. (less)
Chris Do not jump into The Cartel. First, if you want to read an awesome book about the drug war, why wouldn't you start at the beginning? They're both terr…moreDo not jump into The Cartel. First, if you want to read an awesome book about the drug war, why wouldn't you start at the beginning? They're both terrific. There's no sense in reading them out of order. And you will lose a lot of the impact from the second book. Why are the people in book two acting the way they are? It's hard to feel it when you skip the first 20 years of history. (less)

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Rick Riordan
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Winslow is such an awesome writer. He’s one of those people who makes storytelling look easy, even for other storytellers like me, who know very well that it is NOT easy. The amount of research he did for this book must have been staggering. It is a fictionalized telling of the recent drug wars in Mexico and beyond, with all the gore and horror that I remember from the headlines when I was still living in South Texas. It felt so real, so true to what happened, that I started fearing for the auth ...more
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
There’s a scene in this book in which a Mexican drug lord essentially strolls out of prison thanks to a corrupt system. Reality imitated art a few weeks after it was released when a Mexican drug lord escaped prison via a tunnel so elaborate that it’s very hard to believe it could have been built unnoticed by prison officials.

Don Winslow isn’t a prophet.* He’s just a very talented crime writer who has spent years researching the war on drugs, and he knows all too well how the same mistakes have
David Putnam
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Cartel was a good book but is overshadowed by the greatness of Power of the Dog, the first book in the trilogy. I have the third book on the TBR pile. These books are about the rise of the narcotic cartels in Mexico. In the beginning South America controlled the narcotic pipeline with Mexico merely the middleman. This is the story of how that power shifted and Mexico became the driver in the drug business. The books are well researched and so compelling they are hard to put down. I highly re ...more
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
" the end of the day or the end of the world, there are no seperate souls. We will go to heaven or we will go to hell, but we will go together."
- Don Winslow, The Cartel


I went into this thinking I was going to get Tom Clancy+, but actually ended up with a novel closer to Norman Mailer. 'The Cartel', and Don Winslow's previous book on the Mexican drug trade ('The Power of the Dog') are best described as a two-part, fictionalized history of the War on Drugs in Mexico.

I was first drawn to read
This is a huge book in every way—for its effects on people’s thinking and actions, in its implications for drug policy worldwide, and in the scope of its historical documentation. It is very up to date. In the fabulous and informative July 13, 2015 interview at Politics & Prose, the Washington, D.C. bookstore, and published online by Slate magazine, Winslow describes the genesis of this book and his writing process.

For writers, this downloadable Soundcloud podcast is a must-listen for how one
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Pablo groans. He’s not behind in his rent, doesn’t need a child support payment, so a narco story is simply an exercise in tedium. The truth is that the narcos are generally stupid, brutal thugs – once you’ve written about one of them, you’ve written about them all. Any anyway, who cares?”
- Don Winslow, The Cartel

Less than halfway through The Cartel, a Juarez journalist named Pablo Mora is given an assignment to cover “the drug situation.” He thinks the above-quoted thoughts, ruing the repeti
Jul 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Violent and devastating look at the "war on drugs." An indictment, really, of both the drug kingpins and law enforcement. Thoroughly absorbing. A bit long in places. But wow. Mercilessly grim in a good way. Some interesting women characters of which I wish there were more. One hell of a read. Art Keller, who is the bitter heart and soul of this book has a fascinating moral code. This is an epic. ...more
Sam Quixote
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
Drugs are bad, m’kay? And so’s Don Winslow’s latest novel, The Cartel, m’kay?

Ok, I’ll stop that (m’kay?)!

The Cartel spans a decade of the Mexican drug wars from 2004. That’s basically the “story” because what follows for 640(!) pages is a sprawling mess of characters and horrific incidents none of which adds up to anything.

There’s Art Keller, a 50-something former DEA agent who’s retired from locking up drug lords and taken to the monastic life before returning for one last job (what is this,
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
“The Cartel” and “The Power of the Dog” are two very different books. Winslow manages to keep his content fresh by switching his focus. Both books are meant to give insight into America’s “war on drugs”, however, “The Cartel” has a much more journalistic feel to it. Winslow is a master at writing about long spans of time. The book takes place from 2004-2014. Winslow still manages to incorporate a lot of depth while also managing to cover many bullet point headlines that one would expect to see i ...more
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
High-Octane Thriller of Mexican Drug Wars
Fallout from America's Opioid Crisis: Opioid Alternative, Cinnamon & Black Tar Heroin Priced to Sell by Sinaloa Cartel and Mexican Rivals
“The Mexicans have finally found a drug that white trash likes and can afford. And one thing you ain’t never gonna run out of is white trash.”
“Just across the bridge is the gigantic marketplace, the insatiable consumer machine that drives the violence here. North Americans smoke the dope, snort the coke, shoot the he
G.H. Eckel
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Imagine a 17 hour Ken Burns' movie in a novel and you get Don Winslow's, The Cartel. It's an epic story of the drug cartels in Mexico, their turf wars, and their fight with government forces that are as violent and ruthless as the cartels they seek to destroy. The novel focuses on one Don who comes back into power after a stint in jail, and the American agent who originally put him there and wants him incarcerated again. The story is fictional but rings true because it's based on real cartels, e ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
Two books by Don Winslow together tell the story of America’s “war on drugs” from its beginnings in the post-Vietnam war years of the 1970’s through the increasingly violent front-page crack/cocaine drug-dealing decades up to the more current apathetic backpage interest or desensitized year of 2015. Both books follow the main character Art Keller, along with other few, very few, sadly, continuing characters.

In the first book in the series, The Power of the Dog, Keller is a young hopeful altruis
Mark Rubinstein
Jun 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've read nearly everything Don Winslow has written and think he's one of the most innovative writers out there. The Cartel is an opus of a book and follow-up to his earlier novel, The Power of the Dog. This powerhouse book finds DEA agent Art Keller plunged into the Mexican-American drug cartel wars firing up on both sides of the border, even in Central America. This is a gripping saga, but don't be intimidated by its 624 pages--it reads like a drug rush with Keller pursuing Adan Barrera, the p ...more
The Cartel picks up years after the final events in Winslow's drug war chronicle The Power of the Dog . And if you thought Dog was epic, wait till you get a load of this one. In a culmination of their 30-year feud, cartel lord Adán Barrera and DEA legend Art Keller have both lost everything and are stuck in their own prisons. Adán is living large behind the bars of a Mexican prison that he turns into his personal headquarters, and Art is living in seclusion at a border monastery. But when Adá ...more
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
5 stars

There are a number of ways to receive Don Winslow's massive fictional undertaking The Cartel (a novel even more massive when you consider it's a 600+ page, very-much stand-alone sequel focused on the drug trade in Mexico):

We could blithely ignore what's gone on in the last few decades, and pretend the Grand Guignol of Mexican horrors hasn't directly affected us and willfully whitewash it from our collective cognizance. We could gobble it up and point to it as a proof-positive exemplar of
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: don-winslow
This is a broad, sweeping magnum opus of a novel that has historic breadth and scope and chronicles the modern history of Mexico and the Cartel wars that have absolutely decimated that country. This work, at well over six hundred pages, doesn’t feel long. Rather, it feels overwhelming. This continues the story about the Drug Lord (Adan Barrera) and the Border Lord (Art Keller) that Winslow began in 2005’s Power of the Dog. Winslow could easily have parceled out the 1200 pages that make up these ...more
Edward Lorn
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not as amazing as THE POWER OF THE DOG but still a good read. I missed Callan. A lot.

A solid four stars. I do wonder what the hell the third book is gonna be about, though.
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Brandon by: Kemper
Shelves: 2015, favorites, fiction
Picking up after the events of The Power of the Dog, Adan Barrera is sitting pretty in a Mexican jail. With corruption at its highest, Adan’s cell looks more like a luxury condo as he orchestrates the actions of his cartel outside the prison walls, waiting for the right time to escape.

Art Keller is living a modest life off the grid. After Barrera's escape, Keller is brought back into the fold, charged with tracking down and capturing Adan. And so, it begins again. Keller vs. Barrera. Round Two.

Aug 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an epic this is - it's like about 4 different books combined into one as one cartel after another battles against each other. It really is the Mexican drug equivalent of the Godfather - or maybe all 3 Godfather films combined into 2 books.

I've seen reviews saying that is Winslow's best book but I think I'd put it equal top with "The Power of the Dog" - it is really a continuation of that and you need to read that first to get the most out of it. If you've already read and liked "The Power o
Linwood Barclay
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'm only 60 pages or so in, but it's terrific so far, and has an epic feel to it. Winslow either knows this world very well, or has done some amazing research. ...more
Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For those of us that remembered Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán's vanishing act from his first maximum-security prison stint at Puente Grande -- supposedly via a laundry cart in 2001 -- it was deja vu all over again when it was announced on July 12th that "Shorty" had done it again. Unnoticed by guards, Guzmán pried open a 1'6" sq. metal grill in the floor of his shower, went through the floor, down a ladder, along a tunnel...
...and out the door onto his ride to freedom. So thorough was the rehearsa

WOW...I know, I should write a proper review, I MUST.

For those who think that the Mexican drug war has calmed down, some facts to reconsider:

I ADMIRE the accurate research and incredible processing of information the author did while working on this powerful series. Even if sometimes my head was on the edge of exploding because of all the names and information to keep, this book was really very hard to put down.
I actually got the audio edition first, but I just couldn't wait for my next audio
Mar 23, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I appreciate that I'm an outlier, given the high volume of 4 and 5 star reviews, but I don't get what everyone sees in The Cartel, other than Winslow's writing style is accessible, e.g., very readable. I stopped reading after 150 or so pages. I have a high tolerance for violence, generally, but not torture and the plot wasn't driving to any particular conflict or resolution; it just went on and on to another day of torture, etc. I could not get into the main character. One day I said, "self, why ...more
One of the easiest five stars I've ever given to a book. Not only is this one of the most epic, sweeping crime novels I've ever read, it's also a brilliant fictionalized history and inarguably a work of social activism. Don Winslow is officially The Shit, more later. ...more
Jess Penhallow
This book wasn't quite as good as The Power of the Dog for me. Perhaps it was because the novelty of this authors style has worn off, perhaps the storyline was too complicated, I'm not sure. It just didn't pack the punch that I was expecting.

This book, set around 5 years after the conclusion of the previous book. was some how much narrower in scope than its predecessor (the action was mainly contained to Mexico and a time span of 10 vs 30 years) and much broader at the same time. There were far
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read The Cartel immediately after it's predecessor The Power of the Dog. The Cartel can be read as a stand alone book but it's best to read the two books in sequence.

Together, The Power of the Dog and The Cartel span nearly 1,200 pages and 40 years and present a multifaceted view of the War on Drugs. The Power of the Dog covers the first 30 years, during which the war was fought on a much more intimate scale than it was from 2004 to 2014, the period covered by The Cartel.

I loved The Power of
This story follows on from The Power of the Dog. It's not too often that you come across a second novel in a continuing storyline that is as excellent as the first novel. A story of revenge, power and domination between Art Keller and drug lord Aden Barrera in South America. It's a violent, dark and seedy world that they inhabit. Sometimes difficult to ascertain just who the "good guys" are meant to be. A fitting ending to the struggle between the two characters.

Time and money well spent and de
Yigal Zur
Aug 28, 2019 rated it liked it
well. hard to say. Wislow is good writer and a great researcher. but i do not want to read a documentary. the beginning was great and than a great drop quite boring saga of narcotics. maybe it tried too much to follow reality, but...not great plot, not really interesting characters, the women are just house wives or whores. a lot of violence which just serve to describe sort of reality but where is the thriller? so i got bored after half of it. the only real piece of writing was Art Keller as a ...more
This book is filed under Fiction because it is a fictionalized account, but the events, the descriptions, the locations and even many of the names are very real. The disturbing violence is very real. The situations have precedence, and while I knew this overall, reading Winslow's recent article in Esquire, underscored it even more (See: El Chapo and the Secret History of the Heroin Crisis ).

It's devastating, but it's important. Following the narrow, law enforcement both US and Mexican, and t
Patrick O'Neil
Jul 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fuck yeah, Don Winslow’s The Cartel is here and I read it, and all I can say is “Fuck! Holy Fuck! Fuck Yeah!” Although I’m pissed that I tore through the entire book in less then a week. I was busy, I had shit to do, like work, and eat, and sleep, and it just got in the way of me reading, but I still couldn’t make it last more than five days. Shit, Winslow’s the literary equivalent to Jon Stewart and The Daily Show – because nobody demystifies the Socioeconomic/Political/Narco tangle of Mexico l ...more
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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 ...more

Other books in the series

Power of the Dog (3 books)
  • The Power of the Dog (Power of the Dog #1)
  • The Border (Power of the Dog, #3)

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