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THE FORCE
by Don Winslow
William Morrow, June 2017
480 pages
$27.99
ISBN: 0062664417


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Following on his hit novel about the drug wars in Mexico, THE CARTEL, Don Winslow knocks another one out of the park. This time the stage is the NYPD's Manhattan North Special Task force, headed by Detective Sergeant Denny Malone, known locally as Da Force. Its task is to keep its area under control, dealing with gangs, guns, drugs and warring criminal organizations.

Malone is a hero to the ordinary people in his district. Most recently he and his crew took out Diego Pena, the Dominican drug lord in charge of NYC, netting one hundred kilos of Mexican heroin, Dark Horse, 60 % pure, worth $100,000 a kilo on the street. Oh, and they also found five million in cash.

Denny is from a family of cops and firefighters, whose brother died fighting the fires at 9/11. He is 38 and has been with the NYPD for 18 years, serving on the front lines. It's mean, hard work and it does not pay him what he thinks he and his family should have. The drug lords, the business and government leaders are rolling in it and it does not take Denny too long to realize that everyone takes his cut, whether in drugs or money.

And so he and his crew start taking their share. It is a dangerous business, always just a step away from getting caught, but these men have learned to live on the edge. They work hard and party even harder, taking advantage of all the delights of fine clothes, fine food, good drugs and the best whores. They do favors and are owed by almost everyone in their district.

So taking half of Pena's heroin is just business as usual, insurance for the families, if Da Force gets taken down. Here is where Don Winslow shines. The drug trade eventually corrupted everyone in THE CARTEL. No one escaped the Mexican cartels' touch and Winslow led us down every step into the hell of total corruption.

In THE FORCE, Winslow displays his years of research into how the whole system works, at least in New York City. A large cast of cops and criminals interact, every act tainted with illegality, each act more heinous. Getting caught does not end the descent, as now the cop must turn on others, commit acts against his brother cops, each one more despicable than the last.

As readers, we identity with Malone, essentially a good guy, so his fall from grace is painful, perhaps too painful, as the descent takes almost 500 hellish pages of gory details. THE FORCE is not for the faint of heart, but if you have the stomach for it, you will acknowledge Don Winslow's triumph.

Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, July 2017

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