THE POWER OF THE DOG is an epic story about the war on drugs in South America, unique in its grotesque and disgusting detail and the incredible insight in this web of political ambitions, personal greed and unbelievable cruelty. The most outstanding aspect of this book is the ambiguity of the main characters. There are no villains and heroes in this game, all the players in this vile business get tainted by the inhuman and vicious battle, the shocking indifference towards suffering and the disrespect of human lives. It is a realistic, but cruel description of the secret war against drugs.
Don Winslow tells the story of the DEA agent Art Keller fighting the Barrera cartel. Unfortunately Art made a huge mistake in his first assignment in Mexico, he befriended the Barrera brothers and their uncle Tico, the local druglord. This relationship will haunt him for the rest of his life, because the Barrera family will become his fiercest enemy in the war on drugs. Several other important characters get tied into this intricate game of violence and intrigue. There is Nora, the high class hooker, who becomes romantically involved with one of the Barrera brothers and there is Father Parada, who is fighting for the rights of the impoverished farmers and native Indians and who is disgusted by the opportunistic position of the church in Mexico.
Of course, there is also the mob in the US and the meddling of the CIA in South America. Don Winslow does not refrain from pointing out the hideous role US politics played in South America, the weapons deal with the Sandinistas, the eviction and killing of native tribes in the rainforest and so on.
It is a powerful and honest book. It is not always fun to read, but it is hard to put down.