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The Force: A Novel by Don Winslow

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

The ForceDenny Malone is a hero in many people’s eyes. He and his crew tagged “the force” have made one of the biggest heroin busts in the history of the NYPD. Malone and his crew’s rise to stardom was fast in coming. His elite unit was given pretty much free reign to do whatever it took to keep Manhattan North safe for the good people living and working in the area. But time and again, history has shown unchecked power leads to abuse. So while many herald Malone as invincible and untouchable, rumors start to surface, because not only does unlimited power lead to corruption, it also leads to jealousy and bad blood. Winslow’s The Force is the story of Malone and his crew’s fall from grace.

The book opens with Malone in jail. The rest of the book, until the last few chapters, moves through what led this once hero to be jailed on a list of charges befitting the worst of the criminal element. Malone’s reflection on how things went wrong is probably the most depressing part of the book as well as the most unnerving. How a good cop out to do his job slowly succumbs to crossing first a small line, which rapidly accelerates to a dive into complete corruption. Readers watch while Denny works his trade, from free meals to buying judges to stealing evidence and finally executing perps.

I imagine there are going to be two very strongly divided camps among the readers of The Force by Don Winslow. For some, I suspect devoted followers of the author, this book is classic Winslow and they just can’t get enough. For others, this book is just too dark. I can certainly relate to both perspectives. For me The Force certainly is what I would expect from Winslow in a book about dirty cops, but it is dark. Yes, it is not only dark, it is depressingly dark so in many places with no likable characters, there no one for the reader to really root for.

If the unlikable characters aren’t enough there is the troubling thought that Winslow’s depiction of the NYPD may be more actuate than fiction. Indeed a scary thought.

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