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4.5 out of 5 stars
El Narco: The Bloody Rise of Mexican Drug Cartels
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2014
If you're one of those people who are fascinated by the seedy world of drugs this book is right up you dimly lit street.
It goes into great depth about the extent of the impact that "El Narco" has within and without the boundaries of Mexico. As the book rolled on I found myself having to stop and agjust to reality so I could properly digest the enormity of what is going on in Mexico. I enjoyed it and it was money well spent, if this is your type of book Last Seen in Bangkok could be worth a go too.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 23 April 2012
This is a highly informative book that is very accessible but still provides a great deal of information and insight into the horrific insurgency that is blighting Mexico. I knew nothing of this particular drug war and came away utterly stunned. Grillo is a fine writer who conveys the politics, the social impact and horror with a clear eye. Excellent, I was truly impressed and could barely put the book down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 9 October 2013
This is a very interesting subject, and Grillo has provided a solid, well-researched and soundly-structured book. I couldn't put it down. If you want to know the history and evolution of the narcos, this is essential reading.

However, it would have benefitted from better editing. Grillo is a native of the UK, but writes in an American English style, perhaps to pander to his intended audience; the Mexican Drug War is a hotter topic in the USA, after all. This annoyed me a little, as the Americans who will read this book will be educated and intelligent enough to understand his native English. His use of street slang, talking about "caps" in bodies, instead of "bullets" or "rounds" smacks of trying to appear cool and streetwise. The overuse of "severed craniums", "gunslingers" and "there were so many holes in (the object) that it resembled a cheesegrater" became repetitive.

And considering he's said to have lived in the Americas for ten years, the Spanish translations were sometimes dubious. Again, a good editor could have tightened this up.

On the whole, a great read. I'd highly recommend it. If you could mark out of 10, I'd have given a 7. As it is, I couldn't award a 3.5 and rounded up to 4 starts because of the content and intensive research he's done.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Whenever I review books about the Drug War, the carnage in Mexico, few seem to care. Is it the ostrich-with-its-head-in-the-sand-syndrome, or is it the "I got my blow, my weed. Now get off my back," mentality? Perhaps it's my pedantic tone. I try not to rail, but when one is familiar with the torture, brutality, senseless beheadings and acid baths, all for control of prohibited drug sales, then one loses one's propriety. We permit the Drug War (useless billions spent every year) yet we don't want to hear about it. Seal it away. It happens down there, or in the ghettos.

If you are not one of these people, then read El Narco. It is a comprehensive account of what is transpiring in the Western Hemisphere, under our very noses, right now. It's not a pretty story, but a necessary read for anyone who cares.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2013
If you really want to know how the diabolical situation that exists on America's southern border began and is currently perpetrated, then I suggest you read this excellently researched book. Powerful and evocative, this book brings together the hopelessness and defenselessness of the Mexican people... the poorest,as usual, suffering the most. We are talking about a heinous and unstoppable barbaric criminal insurgency, uncontrolled and with the overt complicity of the state - the like and scale of which has never been known in a western 'democracy'. This book should serve as both a warning and a wake up call to the USA, (and the rest of the first world) that globalisation is not limited to big business. The USA bears the greatest responsibility for this threat to democracy, due to its blinkered self interests and its pandering to its bible thumping classes. Legalise recreational drugs, ban the selling of assault weapons and deprive these cartels their oxygen. Prohibition does NOT work. WAKE UP!
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 22 January 2012
This is the sort of book I have been really keen to read for a long time; an explanation of the history behind these current events is so important. Having the facts laid out in such a clear way, and with a constant reminder that this is a human (and as such universal) story it provides a really good basis for a serious debate.

Such as the one I had with my Uncle, Aunt and cousins during a christmas dinner in London. All participants had an entrenched point of view. While I do not think anyone succeeded in changing the position of the other, I was able to share some history and context with my relatives.

The story told within is a real one, but given the subject matter it reads like a hollywood movie. It is a gratuituous and glamourous world. One that beggars belief and shocks. I was compelled to keep reading at the same time as being repelled by the horrible people and actions described.

For me, the bottom-line is that this story goes beyond drugs and actually reveals how humanity is incapable of embracing multiple points of view, and ways of life. The hypocrisy exposed is sickening. Drug-dealers, bankers, law-enforcers, politicians- the list of power abused with impunity is part of daily life.

Mexico's cartels reflect the market economics that also make Wal-Mart so successful. The added-value lies with the distributor. The manufacturers of the product are exploited as much as possible. The final client is sold as much product as the distributor can get away with. The 'brand-value' is a clever way of selling high for the lowest quality the market will bear.

At the very least, the legalisation of these drugs would deliver transparency across the supply-chain and we can begin to start holding all aspects accountable.

Such is the relevance and power of the story, I finished hoping to read a sequel. Of course, such a progression will be dictated by events. I only hope that everyone touched or interested in this issue, across the globe, can appreciate how we are all connected, and complicit in this state of affairs.

I really hope that any sequel tells the story of solutions. Lasting and peaceful ones.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 26 July 2012
This is a great book if you want to really find out what is going on today in Mexico. The book is well written and comprehensively covers the situation from grass roots to the top . The great thing is that Mr Grillo conveys the horror of the situation in such a way as not to glamorise the reality of it as so many other writers do when writing about organised crime. Fantastic work I will definitely be on the look out for more work by this Author.
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on 9 February 2013
The most informative book I have read so far on the immoral and counter-productive US/Mexican drug war. Grillo definitively captures the explosion of violence which has brought Mexico - and even parts of the US - to the brink of despair and anarchy; he comprehensively explains the history of (US and Mexican chemical) prohibition as well as the current political situation. No-one who reads this excellent book will be in any doubt as to how spectacular a failure prohibition has been and the disastrous consequences of Nixon's War on Drugs on, not just those directly involved, but countless innocent victims.
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on 30 January 2012
What a good book this is and well deserves its being chosen by the BBC's Radio 4 "Book at Bedtime" recently.

While the news reports we see give us the bones of the situation in Mexico -and elsewhere - the author adds flesh (and blood) to the story (or tragedy) with a well-written, well researched and understanding discourse of a situation which we in Britain can hardly imagine.

Written with feeling, each page is a fascinating read and the writer shows himself to be thoroughly at home with this subject and a fine wordsmith as well. Well done, Mr Grillo.
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on 11 January 2015
A thoroughly absorbing and thought provoking book. I thought I knew about the cartels and the power they wield. This superb book reveals so much more. The author obviously feels a deep attachment to Mexico and its people and his sense of frustration and anger at the way the cartels are undermining Mexican society is apparent throughout. The book is terrifying in its accounts of the extent and detail by which the cartels operate but is equally balanced and tries to understand the reasons for how things are. A great read and something I would recommend.
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