The Cartel is the sequel to Don Winslow's The Power of the Dog which blew me away when I read it in January of last year. I immediately put this book on my reading list, but did not manage to get around to it until now. I have been reading a lot less this year than in the past two for a variety of reasons. Luckily my list persists across my own negligence and rewards me with books like The Cartel.
As a sequel, this book does the job of continuing the narrative of DEA agent Art Keller against narco Adan Barrera. It does justice to the first in both breadth and intellectual continuity. The characters develop from the first in ways that are justified and within what we know about them. All that said, this book stands on its own. One could skip The Power of the Dog and just read this book and still come away satisfied. There are a lot of references to the past, but they are woven throughout in a way that gives enough background to allow you to just read this one. Moreover, the amount of character development in this book makes you feel like you are meeting Art and Adan all over again, because in a sense as they have grown you are meeting them again.
Most of America is only vaguely aware of the scale of violence perpetrated so close to their homes over the past twenty years. While this is technically a work of fiction, a great deal of the bloodshed is based on fact. Upper middle class America thinks of this type of attrocity as only occuring in downtrodden African and Middle Eastern countries. To accept that thousands of people were brutally tortured and murdered just across the border is something that America does not seem ready to do.
I highly recommend both of this books. Don Winslow has a writing style that I enjoy so much that I have begun to incorporate it into my own writing. I'm looking forward to putting some more of his books on my reading list.