This commentary originally aired July 10, 2017.
In his latest crime novel, The Force, Don Winslow abandons the Mexican-California border of his acclaimed novel The Cartel for the patrol borough of Manhattan North, New York City.
The novel focuses on a dirty, though once heroic cop, Denny Malone, and his dirty unit. Secrets are only as good as those who keep them, and on the dangerous streets where your partner knows you better than your spouse does, a rat is no better than scourge.
Don Winslow is a master of detail, dialog, place, and the conflicted nature of men. Life in “da force” follows a strict code of conduct. Denny gives the orders, but the unit has been together so long, the behavior on the street, during a raid or bust, or in a dangerous stairwell, is instinctual. The rituals off duty are just as routine, whether out for a so-called bowling night after a partner shoots at a suspect, a funeral for a fellow officer, or at a family gathering on Staten Island, where homes can be purchased with a police officer’s salary. The unit functions like a single character, and Winslow puts the reader in the middle of the action.
The Force is a gripping and remarkable book. Winslow’s tormented and misdirected cops are not bad people, they simply lose their way. One small indiscretion, a skim here, a few dollars there, leads to corruption that eventually overtakes an entire city, from the lowliest junkie on the street, to the biggest investor on Wall Street. This is a tour de force that you don’t want to end, but are relieved when it does.