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Posts Tagged ‘cartels’

otherson_cvr

I know, I know. It is that time of the year where we all get touchy and as the eggnog flows, most people want to curl up to something warm and fuzzy. The last thing you want to read about is about Swedish psychopaths. Alas, I missed that memo. Sorry chaps.

About a year ago (or so), I had reviewed Söderberg’s debut, The Andalucian Friend, and we were introduced to Sophie Brinkmann, the nurse, and her son, Albert. In Friend, one of Sophie’s patient was a drug kingpin named Hector Guzman who, seemingly, took a liking to her. Unfortunately, the moment Sophie started falling for his charms, that was the moment her world exploded as her path collided with a delightful (and frightening) array of characters that pretty much blurred the lines between good and evil. Actually, they practically erased the bloody line. Seemingly vicious gangsters that actually had somewhat of a moral compass and law enforcement officials that were morally void sociopaths that would render most demons speechless. All those roads (littered with corpses and drenched in blood) seem to lead to Sophie. Needless to say, not in a pleasant way. In the end of Friend, we find Hector Guzman in a coma and Sophie being offered a choice she can’t possibly refuse: take control of Hector’s affairs or face the possibility of being dirtnapped. Hmm, decisions … decisions.

Other Son opens, six months later, and we find Sophie managing the slowly crumbling Hector Guzman empire whilst being guided throught the proverbial shark-infested waters of the drug trade by Hector’s loyal and lethally efficient right-hand, Aron Geisller. Living her life constantly peering over her shoulder and bogged down by Aron’s security protocols, Sophie finds herself being pushed further and further to the edge of the abyss. To add to her troubles, Ralph Hanke (Hector’s rival) has become quite bold and vicious in his attacks as he sanctions the kidnapping of a Lothar Tiedmann, Hector’s illegitimate son. Sophie soon finds herself being tested by various cutthroat factions and being pushed into making decisions that raises Aron’s eyebrows … and that is not a good thing. Now I know what you’re thinking … it can’t get any crazier than this. And I have to say to you that you really don’t know Scandanavian crime novels. Enter Tommy Jansson (corrupt cop extraordinare), Antonia Miller (an actual decent cop with really good wits), Ove Negerson (a half-black, half-Swedish psychopath), and Miles Ingmarsson (a surveillance expert that seems to spends most of his time in strip clubs), Koen (a heroin addicted hitman) and the loveable bear of a Russian mafioso, Mikhail, returns. Aye, to say that the shit is about to hit the fan is, laughably, the biggest uderstatment of the century. There are more twists and turns than disorganized origami and intrigue is so thick that you can almost gag on it. The body count climbs (caution: try not to get attached to characters) and the blood spatters like something in Dexter’s wet dream. The race to the jaw-dropping (yet abrupt) conclusion will keep you riveted, fired up and jonesing for the next sequel by Söderberg.

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zero00_cvr

Several years ago, I wrote a review on Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah. It is one of the few books out there embeds itself in your head, like a Taylor Swift song, and you never quite recover from it. Yes, it made an appearance as a coffee table book on the set of HBO’s True Detective (season two, episode eight … I think). And yes, my mind can be that weird, and I tend to notice stuff like that. And sure they made a movie about it (a bit over two hours long) and even though some complained about the violence, I had to chuckle. Even though the movie was close to three hours long, the violence was nothing compared to the book which is probably likened to a Quentin Tarantino wet dream. In Gomorrah, the author went to great lengths (and risk) to detail the many deeds and names in the criminal underworld in Naples. And it was not pretty. It pretty much kicked all that romantic bollocks about gondolas, floating in Venice, steered by serenading oarsmen … in the minerals with a steel-tipped Doc Martins boot. And for the most, many of us thought that it couldn’t get any worse. It turns out that I was wrong. Apparently, the world’s a wee bit more shitty.

Zero Zero Zero was Saviano’s immersion into the wonderful world of cocaine. Please note that the word “wonderful” is layered in unhealthy, blistering layers of sarcasm. In a sense, think of Saviano as Morpheus and Zero Zero Zero as a literary red pill. Sorry no blue pill on this run. He traces it’s humble beginnings from Colombia onward to its ever growing tentacles that have spread over the world. Yes, more precious than gold, silver and oil … this white powdery gold is in high (and growing) demand and every criminal element in the world wants to invest and control. Needless to say, the trip down the rabbit hole does not get pretty and it gets really deep, and makes the Mad Hatter seem quite sane. Filled with colourful characters, Saviano shows a stark industry that is built on terror, corruption and unbridled barbarism. From El Chapo (yes, that El Chapo) to the Los Zetas to Griselda Blanco … and the bloody list goes on. And the really messed up part is every criminal element in the world, even terrorists (who are looking for a means to finance their operations) are looking to get in on this cash cow. A shocking disclosure: America is one of the biggest importers of cocaine. Another shocking disclosure: Mexican cartels frown on pushers selling drugs to Mexicans (yes, you are reading this correctly), drugs are strictly for sale to the gringos. Actually, some cartels have been known to put Mexican addicts through rehab. Awww, you think, that’s so nice. Wait for it. There’s a catch: once they’ve gotten better, they’ve got to work for the cartels. And just say no is not an option. As Pablo Escobar used to say “plata o plomo”: silver or lead. Get paid or get dead. And the level of barbarism mentioned in the book is enough to make you lose your lunch, bowel control or lots of sleep: cartel murders and torture, the murder and torture of DEA’s Kiki Camarena, the training techniques of the Kaibiles (Guatemalan Special Forces) … oh joy. It gets better. To think of drug kingpins as just a bunch macho blokes walking around with .45s stuck in their waistband and puffing away on Cubans as they surround themselves with hot “chicas” … is as outdated as the printing press or using the “withdraw/pull-out” method as birth control. Some are even re-investing their ill-gotten gains into “research” and innovations such as submarines or submersibles (and no, I’m not kidding) and liquid cocaine. It is frightening what’s at our doorstep. Zero is basically a mirror that is held up to every addict or “recreational user” face, with a simple question: how much is your getting high really worth? The sad news is the price is extremely high, and many people are unwittingly paying that price in other parts of the world with unbelievable suffering and their lives.
Once again, Mr. Saviano does it again.Zero Zero Zero is a sobering read, not exactly for the faint of heart (at times) and for some, it just might be a wakeup call. Hope you enjoy the ride down the rabbit hole, mates. Morpheus, thy name is Saviano.

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