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‘The Border’ Is a Stunning and Timely Conclusion to Don Winslow’s Drug-War Trilogy

The second book, “The Cartel” (2015), remains the heart of this series, and not only because of its central chronological position. It cements the ambition and the “Godfather” caliber of this whole multigenerational undertaking, and finds the major figures at their most fully formed. Some of it takes place, as we now learn with hindsight, in what were practically idyllic times for the Sinaloa cartel, a real-life cartel run by the fictional Barrera, regardless of his situation vis-à-vis imprisonment. Inside or out, he called the shots — and shots were the most merciful form of punishment meted out to this group’s vicious enemies. As the Sinaloa operation devolved into monstrous war with rivals, counting journalists among its many casualties, mere brutality became a distant memory.

A surprising array of characters from the earlier books reappears in “The Border.” One of them is a young boy who, in “The Cartel,” was seen kicking around a very bizarre soccer ball (an image readers of that book will never forget, no matter how hard they try). Keller and his new wife, Marisol Cisneros, the onetime mayor of Juarez, decide to try to help him.

It is 2012 when “The Border” starts, smoke still rising from the colossal battle that dethroned Barrera for good. A major plot point is the internecine horror that descends after the kingpin’s demise. The fight for succession lasts through the entire length of the novel.

Don WinslowCreditRobert Gallagher

Winslow means to journey deep into a new kind of hell this time, and to suggest that his readers recognize the sensation. This is a book for dark, rudderless times, an immersion into fear and

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