Don Winslow’s latest masterpiece is a gritty, raw look into the life of a New York City cop, and all the conflict–some by chance, some by choice–that comes with it.
On the streets, where it matters most, Sergent Denny Malone runs a unit known simply as Da Force. Malone’s crew–Russo, Big Monty, and Billy O’Neil–are part of the Manhattan North Special Task Force, an elite unit made up of New York City’s finest. And anyone who knows anything about Manhattan North knows that those streets belong to Malone.
Nobody, from gangbangers to corrupt city councilmen, can so much as spit without Denny finding out about it.
Malone, a tatted-out Irish Catholic who has a love for rap music, comes from a line of hero cops. And after Malone’s crew pulls off what ends up being the biggest heroin bust in NYPD history, Denny himself is also labeled a hero by the media and his fellow officers. Sadly, though, Billy took a fatal round from a gangster and died in the drug house.
What few people know is that Malone and his crew are dirty, and their record-setting heroin bust wasn’t exactly by the book.
Picking up several months later, Malone and his guys are trying to break in a new team member who was assigned to their unit as a replacement for Billy. On top of that, word on the street is that the drug kingpin who got ripped off by Da Force is looking for revenge.
On Christmas, Malone spends the night picking up and dropping off cash-filled envelopes to other dirty cops and city officials. Unbeknownst to him, his chat with the Assistant District Attorney was recorded by the FBI, who had the assistant DA under surveillance. In the process, they caught Malone conspiring to have a case fixed but waited to make their move on him.
As Malone’s crew prepares to bring down a huge gun purchase that’s rumored to be going down in the coming days–big enough to ignite a turf war between rival gangs–tempers start to flair as Russo and Big Monty both worry about an investigation into their drug bust. To cool off a bit, Malone orders up a “Bowling Night,” which is essentially an alcohol-fueled boys-night-out. When he returns home, the FBI is waiting for him, finally ready to make their move.
With a major gun deal about to go down, a turf war on the horizon, a drug kingpin hellbent on revenge, and the FBI secretly keeping tabs, Denny Malone quickly finds himself backed into a corner with very few options–and none of them good.
The genius of Don Winslow’s writing is that he manages to strike a balance with Malone and his partners that make it possible for readers to still root for Da Force. Yeah, Malone and his guys are dirty, but the people they rough up and rip off are far worse. Besides, they do a lot of good things too, and each guy has a family and kids he’s out there grinding for.
Likewise, Winslow masterfully weaves current events and major headlines into the story, which allows him to tackle issues such as police brutality, protest efforts, and a variety of other topics, without being too preachy or breaking from his narrative.
As the tension rises, readers are met with their own tough decision on whether they should burn through the pages to get to the ending, or read slowly to savor the moment. (In the end, you can’t go wrong either way!)
While entertaining, Winslow’s novel isn’t just a treat to read–it provides a unique experience unlike anything else. Whether it’s blasting N.W.A. and singing along as they patrol the streets, or taking down gangbangers and drug dealers, readers will feel like a part of Malone’s crew. And while those who are easily offended by strong language may take issue with some of the dialogue, most readers will appreciate Winslow’s acute attention to detail. Not only do the characters walk and talk like New Yorkers, but the entire New York-living vibe is spot-on.
At one point, Malone delivers a speech to corrupt officials that rivals the “you need me on that wall” speech given by Colonel Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) in A Few Good Men. It’s just one of many emotionally-charged scenes that will stay with readers long after they finish the novel.
Between The Power of the Dog (2005), The Cartel (2015), and now The Force, there’s no doubt that Don Winslow is one of the truly great novelists of his time. If you’re not already reading his stuff, put him at the top of your to-read list starting with The Force.
Author: Don Winslow
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: June 20th, 2017 (Order Now!)