“The Force” by Don Winslow (William Morrow, 482 pages, $27.99)
If you thought this sweltering June weather is sizzling, you should check out the new novel by Don Winslow.
“The Force” is so smoking hot that this reviewer kept imagining that the pages were blistering and that there was steam rising up from the cover. I was almost tempted to keep the book in the freezer during those rare moments when I could set it down.
Some readers might recall my favorite novel of 2015 was another smoldering Winslow creation called “The Cartel.” That book is a fictional account of the Sinaloa Cartel and the epidemic of drug-related violence in Mexico. Two weeks after it came out the actual kingpin of that crime syndicate, a man known as “El Chapo,” escaped from a high-security prison.
‘The Cartel” opens with the Sinaloa drug lord escaping from prison. In an interview Winslow joked that he had nothing to do with the real “El Chapo” imitating his book’s plot. That is one of the amazing things about “The Cartel” and now “The Force,” these stories are so well researched that they feel real.
In “The Force” we meet Denny Malone. He’s a detective sergeant in charge of a small group of NYPD cops who have been given wide latitude to bust criminal gangs that are dealing drugs and weapons in the zone of the city known as Manhattan North.
As “The Force” begins, “Da Force” is making a huge heroin bust. Denny Malone and his crew burst into the building where a heroin mill has been operating. They have been waiting for this moment: “The mill is fat tonight. Fat with money. Fat with dope.”
Malone, Russo, Billy O and Big Monty sweep in. They find 100 kilos of “Mexican cinnamon heroin” and $5 million in cash. The drug dealer acts unafraid. He offers Malone a bribe. Malone has a better idea — he murders the dealer.
“The Cartel” was populated by corrupt law enforcement officials. “The Force” is four formerly good cops who have gone bad. They could not resist the temptations. They turned in half the dope, half of the cash, and stashed the rest. Malone claimed he shot the dealer in self-defense.
All this occurs as the story begins. Now we are trying to figure out why Malone has just been arrested. “The Force” is revealed from Malone’s viewpoint in the third person. While it might seem like I just gave away a lot of the story, the author mentioned all of these events in a recent interview. Winslow didn’t consider those plot points to be spoilers. They are merely the setup for his gripping tale about cops who have gone rogue.
The story rewinds as we flash back to Malone’s earliest days. He was a good cop, a heroic officer. Malone’s men are fiercely loyal to one another. As time passes, their priorities shift.
The 50 kilos of smack they turned in constituted the biggest bust in the city’s history. His dark deeds have left Malone beyond salvation. If you read just one book this summer, make it “The Force.”
You can listen to my interview with Don Winslow Sunday morning at 10:30 on WYSO (91.3 FM).