Featured Review: ‘The Border’ by Don Winslow


THe Border small

Forget crowning this the best book of 2019, Don Winslow’s (The Force, 2017, etc.) latest novel is the must-read book of the decade.

Adán Barrera, the head of the world’s most powerful cartel, is presumed dead. But the war on drugs is far from over.

For Art Keller, who was first introduced as a DEA agent in The Power of the Dog (2005) before returning in The Cartel (2015), the war is nothing new. In fact, Keller has devoted forty years of his life to the war on drugs, chasing after Barrera while navigating their complicated relationship and history together. In that time, he’s seen it all. Keller has witnessed first-hand the violence in Mexico. He’s seen the carnage and killings, and even killed himself. Thousands have died, maybe hundreds of thousands, including innocent bystanders, journalists trying to report on the war, and far too many addicts. And after four decades of nothing changing, Keller is finally ready to hang it all up and retire in Mexico, content to live out his remaining days in peace. 

Then he gets an offer that changes everything.

Ben O’Brien, a powerful senator with ties to Keller (the kind of ties that could torpedo his political career should they ever be exposed) offers Art the chance to become the new head administrator of the DEA. Though he’s reluctant at first, Keller ultimately accepts after admitting to himself that he’s not yet ready to become a ghost and disappear from the world he’s known for so long. “The king might be gone,” Keller thinks of Adán Barrera, “but the kingdom he created remains.” 

And so, Keller assumes his new position, giving him far more power and resources than ever before, which he puts to good use. While a good chunk of the story early on focuses on the vacuum caused by Barrera’s death, chronicling the inner power struggle of the cartels, Winslow eventually shifts his attention north of the border, concentrating on how the things happening in Mexico directly affect America.

As the plot unfolds, Keller realizes that Barrera’s reach extends beyond the grave, with the current heroin epidemic proving to his latest claim to fame. Winslow follows the ripple effect of drugs and addiction, introducing a plethora of new characters—including an NYPD officer, users and their loved ones, and even young migrant children desperately fleeing the war-torn streets of Guatemala in hopes of finding refuge in the States—offering a glimpse from every side of the conflict. It’s powerful, raw, and at times, overwhelmingly heartbreaking. 

Through it all, Keller keeps digging, only to find a stunning link between the cartels and the Oval Office that shakes him to his core. After forty years of fighting the good fight, the War on Drugs has officially followed him home, and Keller’s about to learn that in some ways, Washington D.C. is the most dangerous place of all, flush with corruption and power-hungry career politicians who will do anything, even kill—especially kill—to keep their darkest secrets buried forever.  

Much like his fictional character, Winslow has spent a substantial part of his life following the drug wars. Known for his unprecedented research and expert-level understanding of how the cartels operate, Winslow’s knowledge and passion bleed through each and every page as he crafts yet another masterpiece that feels ripped straight from the headlines. In fact, it’s almost eerie how much Winslow’s plot mirrors real life, and even those who oppose his political beliefs will be forced to reconsider their position after taking in this story and seeing the vivid, heart-stopping image he paints for readers.

Don Winslow’s iconic trilogy represents the most epic crime saga of our time, all told in a way that only he could deliver . . . and The Border is his finest work to date. While it’s sad to see this series come to an end, Winslow sends it out with a bang that readers won’t soon forget. 

Book Details

Author: Don Winslow
Series: The Cartel #3
Pages: 736 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062664484
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 10/10



Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.


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