The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow (Shane's book 41, 2010)

Just when I thought I'd finished my reviews for the year I found one I'd forgotten. This wasn't actually book 41 it was book 37 but I'm not going to go back and re-number the last few reviews.

[amtap book:isbn=0099464985]

The Power of the Dog is Winslow's ninth novel. Having averaged a book a year between 1991 and 1999, Winslow spent six years researching and writing this one and it really shows.

It's a thriller about America's war on drugs and follows Art Keller, a former CIA man turned DEA operative. Starting with him watching opium fields burn in Mexico in 1975, the book follows Keller over the next 30 years as he attempts to bring down the Barrera brothers.

There are cliched elements to this: Keller's marriage suffers from his obsession with the Barrera's and his bosses frequently try to get him off the case, for example. It's also a little implausible that Keller manages such a prominent role in the war on drugs for so long; Winslow might have been better off using multiple characters.

However, the flaws are worth dealing with because this is a great thriller. Winslow's research shows just what an enormous folly the war on drugs has been. There is horrific violence throughout and little positive content to balance it. It's a bleak book but well worth reading.