Book Review: The Force

y648Title: The Force
Author: Don Winslow
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: June 20, 2017

From William Morrow: All Denny Malone wants is to be a good cop.
He is “the King of Manhattan North,” a highly decorated NYPD detective sergeant and the real leader of “Da Force.” Malone and his crew are the smartest, the toughest, the quickest, the bravest, and the baddest, an elite special unit given unrestricted authority to wage war on gangs, drugs and guns. Every day and every night for the eighteen years he’s spent on the Job, Malone has served on the front lines, witnessing the hurt, the dead, the victims, the perps. He’s done whatever it takes to serve and protect in a city built by ambition and corruption, where no one is clean—including Malone himself.

What only a few know is that Denny Malone is dirty: he and his partners have stolen millions of dollars in drugs and cash in the wake of the biggest heroin bust in the city’s history. Now Malone is caught in a trap and being squeezed by the Feds, and he must walk the thin line between betraying his brothers and partners, the Job, his family, and the woman he loves, trying to survive, body and soul, while the city teeters on the brink of a racial conflagration that could destroy them all.

My Review: The New York Police Department – Corruption. Drugs. Gangs. Riots. Tension. If this sounds like a cliche, it’s not. This book is about the elite Manhattan North Special Task Force also known as ‘Da Force’ and ‘The Kings’ that run it – Malone, Russo, Montague, Levin, and O’Neill. These guys go after the drugs and guns, they keep some of the drugs for themselves and pad their nest eggs with the money. So long as the right people get their kickbacks nobody says anything because corruption breeds corruption.

Sergeant Denny Malone is your stereotypical NYPD detective; descended from an Irish hero cop on the verge of divorcing his Irish wife, he wears tattoo sleeves and drinks Jameson whisky. His girlfriend is a mess, often high and can’t get clean. Denny’s the king of kings – revered by the department and feared on the streets. At his core he’s true to himself, his family, his brother cops, The Job, and his city but years working the drug task force have beat him down and blurred the lines between right and wrong, loyalty and betrayal, morality and immorality.

The story opens with Denny locked up in a federal correctional facility followed by a singular event that will torment him to the last page and serve as his fall from grace. Everything else is about how Denny got to this place. At 400+ pages the first half is a slow burn rich in the essentials and nuances of the force – the drug deals, snitches, mandatory bowling nights, the comped dinners and visits to high end brothels. There’s a certain cache that comes with being on the task force but it comes at a high price.  The guys are on the front line which is risky business and take the emotional brunt often leading to drug use to get thru the days. The second half is mind-blowing as Denny spirals out of control taking the whole system down with him.

Winslow masters two things: he illustrates evocative images, characters, and lingo right down to the New York accent and creates an edgy connection where you normally would never go.  Yes, I sidled up to Malone and had a love / hate relationship with a dirty cop! I plunged into uncharted territory and I liked it. Maybe that’s why The Force reads like a true story even though it’s fiction.

Put this one at the top of your reading list. You won’t be disappointed.

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