The Force by Don Winslow

"Why does everyone else get rich? The wiseguys, the dope dealers, the politicians? Why not us for a change? When is it our turn?"

My familiarity with author Don Winslow began with his novel, The Savages. That novel and its prequel, The Kings of Cool, featured a fast-paced, bare-knuckle prose that made for a quick and thrilling read. The way Winslow had me rooting for a group of drug dealers was remarkable, and I consider those books to be some of the best thrillers that I've ever read.

His 2015 novel, The Cartel, garnered critical and commercial acclaim as a sprawling epic about the drug war. It was quickly optioned for a film adaptation by Ridley Scott, and cemented Winslow's place as one of the top thriller authors writing today. When an advanced copy of Winslow's latest novel, The Force, made its way to my desk, I eagerly dived into the novel with high expectations.

Denny Malone is a king of sorts. As the leader of the exclusive NYPD task force, "Da Force", Denny has earned the reputation as being one of the best officers in the city. His men put their lives on the line each night, protecting their home from drugs, gangs, and violence. Denny's personal life has taken a backseat to his work, leaving him separated from his wife, away from his children, and frequenting the home of his drug-addicted mistress. Denny sees this as a necessary evil, all part of the Job.

Ironically, Denny's quest for justice has seen him precariously balance on the edge of cop and criminal. Simply put, Denny is a dirty cop. If putting a bad guy away involves stretching the truth at a trial, planting evidence, or even killing him instead of arresting him, that's fine by Denny. Within the expansive corruption of the justice system, Denny dutifully plays his part in keeping the wheels turning.

Denny takes things a step further when his team busts a notorious drug leader. They murder the criminal on the spot and keep a bit of his drugs for themselves. Why shouldn't the team financially benefit from this massive bust. They reason that if they don't profit from this situation, someone else will. But years of deceit and corruption finally catch up to Denny when the Feds begin to pressure him for info. Denny is caught between saving his own skin and protecting his team. "A man takes care of his family, end of story."

The Force is the best thriller that I've read this year. Winslow writes a startling portrait of a criminal justice system that mirrors the kind of crime operations it is supposed to destroy. At nearly 500 pages, The Force is not the quick read that Winslow gave in his earlier works. Instead, it is a detailed study of a man's transformation from good to bad that evolves slowly while constantly engaging. I was reminded of the epic scope of some of the great gangster films like The Godfather and Goodfellas. I marveled and the way Winslow explores the idea of justice and what it truly is. Cop thrillers aren't hard to come by, but The Force by Don Winslow is sure to be the best one that you'll read this year.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads.

(2017, 27)

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4 Responses to “The Force by Don Winslow ”

  1. Ah yes, when I unexpectedly pull for what I consider the bad guys I know I am reading a gem!

    1. Some of my favorite characters have been "bad guys"!

  2. It sounds like this author really appreciates rooting for the underdogs and giving them there own understanding from the reader. And this one sounds no different!


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