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Killing Pablo : The Hunt for the Richest, Most Powerful Criminal in History

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  11,210 Ratings  ·  648 Reviews
This work charts the rise and spectacular fall of the Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar, richest and most powerful criminal in history. The book exposes the massive illegal operation by covert US Special Forces and intelligence services to hunt down and assassinate Escobar. It is a story that has rarely been told before: Mark Bowden has had exclusive access to highly clas ...more
Paperback, 387 pages
Published 2001 by Atlantic
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Will Byrnes
This is great stuff! Bowden’s 1999 best-seller, Blackhawk Down, was a masterpiece of the genre. Killing Pablo, published in 2001, keeps that momentum going. It tells the tale of the rise and fall of, arguably, the greatest gangster (outside of government) of the 20th century. It is fast-paced, gripping, and gives one a feel for Colombia during the period when narco-terror ruled. (It’s all better now, right?) There is a large cast of characters portrayed here; Steve Jacoby, and American signals i ...more
Jonathan Ashleigh
Apr 07, 2016 Jonathan Ashleigh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recent
Too many characters and I only cared about one of them, and I already knew what was going to happen to him. I would encourage you to watch Narcos instead of reading this book.
Mar 02, 2009 Todd rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I originally was fascinated and awed by the life and story of Escobar and held a sort of reverence for the man, but during and after reading this book I was rooting for him to be caught and killed. For someone who is an adamant pacifist, it was striking for me to feel relieved by someone's death.
Matt Brady
The first section about Escobar's rise to power was the best part of the book. Once the DEA and various other American agencies got involved, Bowden shows a bad habit of fawning all over them, and comparing their rugged cynical professionalism to the whacky zany Colombians in some pretty patronizing ways. Still, it's a lively and very readable account and Bowden isn't entirely supportive of the ruthless extremes the hunters used in tracking down Escobar, giving the last word to the Colombian DEA ...more
This well told, if a bit over-told, story of Pablo Escobar, the man who held a country of 27 million hostage, raises interesting questions for those of us living in post 9-11 times. On the one-hand, the author makes very clear that this wanna-be Latin Robin Hood, who built apartments and soccer stadiums for the poor with his $5-$10 billion in drug money, was nevertheless a very bad man who killed presidential candidates, the prosecutors who investigated him, the police who accompanied them and t ...more
Shaima Faisal
May 11, 2017 Shaima Faisal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very well researched and truly a page-turner kind of book. I didn't need to refer to other sources while reading and the investigation was not biased as I was expecting..

If you are interested in money laundering and illegal activities this book will be a very good real life case study, it gets exciting with every chapter towards the end of the story.

Highly recommended.

Mark Bowden is an American writer and author. He has been The Distinguished Writer in Residence at The University of Delaware sin
Feb 10, 2011 Ilya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the 1980s, the biggest industry in Colombia, a nation of then 30 million people, was cocaine manufacture and smuggling, accounting for 6% of the country's GDP. It was controlled by two cartels, one based in Medellín, the other in Cali. The head of the Medellín cartel was one Pablo Escobar, a professional criminal who assassinated his way to the top of an existing production and distribution network, and grew the business. Listed by Forbes Magazine as the seventh richest man in the world, Esco ...more
Cesar Gonzalez
May 30, 2017 Cesar Gonzalez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
it is one of the best books I have ever read It interesting and there's nothing more better than thies book.
Robert Griggs
Feb 25, 2017 Robert Griggs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another good effort by M Bowden

Interesting look at the hunt for Pablo E...more context than one would see in Narcos, at the least more detail. Intriguing when one considers the complexity of the larger drug war.
Jan 21, 2016 Wade rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
The term "stranger than fiction" is what comes to mind as I sit to write my thoughts on Killing Pablo. There were so many times throughout the reading of this book that, had it been simply a fictional story, I would have been put off by how over the top so much of it seemed; how unbelievable the story was: the ineptitude and corruption of the Colombian government, the blundering nature of bureaucracy, the striking similarities between thier oligarchy and our "democracy", the charm of Pablo while ...more
Hikmat Kabir
The book has got a nasty streak of annoying repetitiveness within it. It seems like characters are often reintroduced with a line or more after every few pages which can make following the narrative a bit jarring from time to time. However, despite its shortcomings. Killing Pablo can still be an entertaining read. Its fascinating to go through the accounts of political situation in Colombia during Pablo Escobar's heydays and his subsequent fall, with the climax of Pablo's hunt being some of the ...more
Colin L.
Feb 04, 2009 Colin L. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and packed with facts and info about the modern history of Colombia. Bowden gives the reader a good feel for the cultural attitudes and politics of Colombia's people and government. The problem I had with Bowden's style was the lack of clarity in his chronology, which caused me to read several paragraphs over and over until it became clear.
On a personal note, I traveled to Colombia during the most dangerous point in the setting of this story, the fall of 1992. It was fascinating
Jul 28, 2007 Samantha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: True Crime Fans, History Buffs
Shelves: military-history
Mark Bowden does an excellent job of telling the story of the hunt for Colombian drug trafficker Pablo Escobar. The story of Pablo's life and his meteoric rise to the top of the Colombian drug trade is very reminiscent of the rise to power of many American mafia dons with just as much murder, mayhem, and corruption.

I read this book after seeing the History Channel documentary and learned even more from the book. The "chase scene" at the end of the book is riveting and it felt like I was reading
Lisa Frankel
Oct 25, 2015 Lisa Frankel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Epic! I don't normally read non-fiction, but after watching Narcos, I wanted to read more about Pablo Escobar. About halfway through I didn't want to finish because then I'd know what was going to happen in Narcos season 2. I can't believe the life Pablo led and the insane search for him! This book was a little hard for me to follow all the characters and names, but I'm bad with names in general.
Brian Martin
Jun 26, 2016 Brian Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this book, gets into the technical aspects of the hunt for Pablo from the side of the Columbia government & US government. If you enjoyed the show Narcos this book is for you.
Jun 26, 2017 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember the Pablo Escobar saga, as it played out at the time. I was a teenager in the 80's, when Miami Vice was the most popular show on TV, and there were about ten different kinds of hysteria in the United States about cocaine. It was described as the cause of most of society's ills, and would be the undoing of our country - it was completely addictive, nearly impossible to quit, and the vast majority of people even tangentially involved with transporting it, selling it, buying it or using ...more
Stephen Heiner
Jun 03, 2017 Stephen Heiner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Mark Bowden first had me at Black Hawk Down. His mastery of narrative nonfiction, weaving hundreds of interviews and countless hours of research into an as-it-happens story is particularly useful in the stories he tells - the stories in the niches. Prior to this book I had last read his nearly 1000 page Guests of the Ayatollah, which told the story of the Iranian Hostage Crisis from start to finish.

Having visited Colombia, in particular Antioquia where Pablo was from, and Medellin, which was the
Nov 29, 2012 Prakriti rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Prakriti by: Breaking Bad, Season 3
Killing Pablo has an incredible plot, and very uninspiring writing and shoddy, unforgivable editing. This does not read like a book at all, but a first attempt at a (bad) magazine article. Being non fiction, this story is in the public domain. Yet, the pathetic research done by Mark Bowden puts one off, giving an extremely sketchy, uneven overview of the whole scenario and kills the supposed thrill emanating from the chase.

The story is simple, Pablo Escobar, kingpin of cocaine dealers, big shit
Feb 28, 2017 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once again, Mark Bowden does not disappoint. This book kept me completely captivated through the twists and turns of the Medellin cartel and Pablo Escobar's reign as pseudo-royalty while the US & Colombian governments tried to take him out. Man, what a bloody, insane story. I had comparisons between his cartel and the cartels in Mexico running through my brain the entire time.

Also, I was completely fascinated/sidetracked by the story of his enormous private estate, Hacienda Los Napoles, and
Holly Morrow
This book is gripping! Its about two stories – one is the rise of cocaine in Colombia, and Pablo Escobar’s role in it, and the second is the manhunt for Escobar after he escapes from prison in 1992. The Colombian cocaine story is an amazing one – it starts in the late 1970s and witnesses the transformation of Colombia into a narco-state as demand for cocaine booms in the US throughout the 1980s. Massive, multi-billion dollar fortunes are made by drug traffickers in places like Medellin, and peop ...more
Dec 25, 2014 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book explains first how Pablo Escobar scrambled his way up to the top of the cocaine distribution network known as the Medellin cartel, and then goes into much detail about the last years of his life, especially the period that he was on the run from the Colombian police, the CIA, the DEA and US military advisers.

It's a story of violence that is unbelievably casual. Pablo Escobar and his henchmen had a simple way of keeping control of their empire, and of their public relations : kill every
Martin Stanley
Jan 24, 2016 Martin Stanley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read this before I made a start on the Netflix series 'Narcos'. Basically, I wanted to know the truth (or as close as anybody can get without being there) of the story before watching a more dramatised version of it.

To be honest, it's a story that doesn't need to be exaggerated or sexed up. The story of Pablo Escobar, and the men (both Colombian and American) who lined up to stop him, is so utterly wild that if an author tried to present it as fiction nobody would believe it. Escoba
Valeria Wicker
Mar 15, 2011 Valeria Wicker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before reading this book I knew, through popular media, that Pablo Escobar was a drug kingpen who lived lavishly while publicly evading the law but who eventually fell and was jailed or something. A conversation with a Colombian student of mine who was surprised that I didn't know more about this cocaine mafioso led me to Mark Bowden's narration of the events that led to Escobar's assassination.

Upon reading the first 100 pages, my opnion of Escobar evolved from a general disliking of the type of
Austin W
May 05, 2013 Austin W rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a historical account of the incredible efforts taken by the Colombian and American governments to eliminate Pablo Escobar, who was not only a cocaine kingpin, but also a violent criminal responsible for the death of hundreds of people who were either innocent or members of a rival cartel. The book starts by explaining how Escobar got his Empire started and then tells how it slowly started to crumble. There is no one set main character; although in the beginning one might say that P ...more
Gavin Smith
I have never read anything else about the hunt for Pablo Escobar so I don't know if Mark Bowden's book is seen as authoritative but it is certainly thorough. Charting the events from Escobar's rise to prominence until his death in a shoot-out, Bowden outlines all of the main players and describes the various events in a clear and propulsive manner. Generally, the prose is simple and straightforward, which serves this kind of story well. Bowden lets the events speak for themselves. I would agree ...more
Oct 06, 2015 Jared rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got pulled into the first season of Narcos when I heard it was based on the Pablo Escobar story. After finishing the season I immediately wanted to know how the story ended and how they could make another season. I went searching for a book and found this one. The book was almost exactly what I wanted, the book form of Narcos (except with less artistic license and more of a true non-fiction). It is not a "hard history" non-fiction book. The author does not cite sources throughout the book but ...more
Jim George
Not great, just alright. Pablo Escobar was truly an outlaw, the world's most notorious drug cartel Drug Lord ever. To produce and smuggle his drugs, he ordered the murders of 100s and 100s of judges, policemen, and politicians. He kidnapped, tortured and killed for profit. He blew up stuff to hold politicians at bay, often killing untold numbers of innocent civilians. The poor saw him as their own Robin Hood, while world leaders, armies, and legal systems just saw him as a hood. He was seriously ...more
Oct 23, 2012 Anneka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned a lot about modern Columbian history from this book. From page 1 this book was a page turner. The first half of the book focused on Columbia's history of violence and the rise of cocaine trafficking and Pablo Escobar. The second half was focused on the story of the manhunt of Pablo. The book was well researched and illuminated the complete picture (or as complete as possible) of Pablo, the government of Columbia, and the US involvement in Columbia. The only thing I disliked about the b ...more
This book provides a behind the scenes look at the military/law enforcement/diplomatic efforts to catch and kill Pablo Escobar. The primary focus of the book is on the guys who chased Escobar, so if you're looking for a portrait of him, you'll be disappointed. The story is fast-paced to the point that I was able to maintain the narrative thread but some of the names started to blend together (it also didn't help that many of the Delta operators puffed up their rank while in Colombia so as not to ...more
Jul 04, 2014 Olethros rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
-¿El enemigo de mi enemigo es mi amigo aunque sea mi enemigo?.-

Género. Novela.

Lo que nos cuenta. Relato breve del ascenso del narcotraficante Pablo Escobar hasta ser el líder del Cartel de Medellín y largo relato de los hechos que desembocaron finalmente en su muerte.

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Mark Robert Bowden (born July 17, 1951) is an American writer who is currently a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, and a 1973 graduate of Loyola College in Maryland, Bowden was a staff writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1979-2003, and has won numerous awards. He has written for Men's Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, Sports Illustrated, and Rolling Stone over the ...more
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“Sometimes the fate of an entire nation can hinge on the integrity of one man.” 7 likes
“The joke Colombians told was that God had made their land so beautiful, so rich in every natural way, that it was unfair to the rest of the world; He had evened the score by populating it with the most evil race of men.” 4 likes
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