The Power of the Dog - Don Winslow

**** Intense, violent, shocking

This is an extremely complex and ambitious novel, which certainly took a huge research by the author on the dynamics of the drug trade between Mexico and the United States. I don’t know the topic well, but the impression I got from reading it is that the author reports real facts, though of course the characters and specific details of their stories are fictional. But they are absolutely plausible.
While reading I saw in my mind scenes from the film “Sicario” and I felt the same feeling of discomfort, but a thousand times amplified by the evocative power of the written word.
The story is engaging, and so shocking, when the author shows the heinous acts of violence and murder. Some sequences leave in suspense and urge you to continue reading until you learn how it ends. It contains so many double and triple games that it is difficult to see a twist as it arrives. Maybe you know it’s coming, but you have no idea what will happen.
Moreover I particularly liked the connection between the beginning of the novel and the end of one of the last chapters.
In general this is a book that must be tackled with the intention of reading it in a short period, because the abundance of detail puts a strain on the reader’s memory. Personally I think this is a good thing for a novel, as it is a sign of a great work of structuring the plot and because it stimulates me as a reader.
Conversely, there are some aspects which have prevented me from giving it full marks.
The novel offers a lot of info-dump on the drug trade, politics, and everything about it. I understand that it is essential to understand the context in which the plot takes place, but I had a hard time reading all this information and I tended to skip it, without this making me miss anything essential to the understanding of story, because I was more interested in characters. All this often breaks the action, because there is an alternation of told pages, which tend to bore you (unless you are interested in the subject), and real action.
There are also too many characters. It isn’t a problem in itself, but their excessive amount makes strenuous to feel empathy for them. It is difficult to “feel” them in yourself, and when you succeed, then they disappear for tens of pages.
In particular, the decision to dedicate each of the first three chapters to a character is quite distracting. I was about to give up at the second chapter, because I did not see any relevance with the first. It seemed another story. Only at the end of the third I started reconnecting things and appreciating the plot, but not all readers can go on like this, because the chapters are very long.
Finally, there really is a lot of violence, shown in a very graphic way, which makes it not suitable for people easily suggestible. I myself was happy to have finished the reading, because at times the book was having a bad impact on my mood. Also this aspect is not negative in itself, because it shows how the book manages to engage the reader, but personally I don’t like this kind of deep involvement with violent and often disgusting acts.

In other words, it’s a great book, a powerful novel, but I would have preferred not to have read it, because it left me with many negative feelings. For this reason I don’t think I will read its sequel.