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4.3 out of 5 stars133
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 11 March 2007
This is a biography of the life of drug king Pablo Escobar. The writer has clearly got some inside story as to his life as it is very detailed (probably too detailed regarding his early life which does drag on far too long). However, if you stick with it, it does give a fantastic insight into Pablo's early years, what formed him and Columbia's recent history.

It also describes the Colombian and US Govts attempts to bring him to justice and the time he spent in prison which was more of a five start hotel, run by his staff and even the prison guards were on his payroll. It also exposes the illegal, covert US operation (and the manipulation of several US laws) to bring Escobar to book, culminating in his assassination on 1992.

Escobar comes across as a very intelligent man, bit of a modern day Robin Hood to some extent and you are rooting for him at times until you realise the death and destruction he brought to the world.

A well researched book that is certainly worth a read.
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This is an excellent book.
I particularly liked the way that Bowden took the time at the beginning of the book to explain the recent history of Colombia, and how Pablo came to grow up in such an incredibly violent country. It put everything into perspective for me as I read further into the book.
Mark Bowden touches on several sensitive areas in the book. For example, the premise that came to mean death for Pablo - that a civilised society cannot be seen to allow a man like him to live in such luxury. This meant that the American and Colombian governments co-operated closely to ensure that Escobar would not escape. It also meant that Ronnie Reagan had to bend several laws governing US involvement in another country's troubles, so that US intelligence officals could help track Escobar.
He very nearly did escape on several occasions, though. And this is what Bowden uses to keep you on the edge of your seat. You get a very real impression of just how powerful, resourceful and cruel Pablo was. And you also get a real feeling for how hopeless the job of the Colombian police was - with Pablo one step ahead of them all along.
There's even a twist of sorts - as Bowden explains the quirk of fortune that allows the police to catch him at last.
Superb book - well researched and well constructed to maintain the suspense.
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on 5 October 2011
The 4 and 5 star reviews convinced me to try the book and I'm happy I did. Without going into details that might spoil the book or to repeat what other's have said, I'll simply say that it's an exciting read and I was completely captivated by it.

It's all about Escobar, his upbringing, his power and influence and his eventual downfall. Historical context is provided in just the right measures, but Bowden never goes off tangent as the book isn't about that, it serves to simply provide a better understanding of the country and what it was going through at the time. I found the whole account fascinating. If this is anything to go by then I think I'll buy Bowden's other book, Black Hawk Down, as well.

If I have one criticism to make it's that the quoted passages in the book (from letters, cables, etc.) appeared in smaller type whereas I would have preferred a different typeface or something else so I didn't have to squint. Other than that, no problems with the book, it's superb!
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on 8 March 2016
There appears to have been more than a few books written about Pablo Escobar and more recently television and movie biopics My Father Pablo Escobar [DVD], Escobar: Paradise Lost [DVD] [2015]. This book gives an enthralling narrative of this crime lord's rise to power, his criminal activity and his demise. There is a large volume of detail (as evidenced by the many sources of reference) but it is all presented in an easily readable way. Only a short part of the book is given over to Pablo's early life and his rise to extreme wealth, the remainder focusing on the law's long pursuit of him. The facts on Pablo's ridiculous wealth is mind boggling and the facets of his personality that led to his ultimate leadership and power are fascinating. This book presents these remarkably yet reads like a thriller and is certainly a page turner.
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on 17 March 2016
I enjoyed this book although it's not great. The story of the hunt for Pablo Escobar at time reads a little like fiction. It's hard to believe that a career criminal could cause such wide spread destruction and could have such a strong hold on a country. I seem to recall Pablo Escobar being described as some sort of criminal mastermind back in the day but he comes across as a violent bully. The descriptions give the impression that he muscled his way into other peoples criminal activities, arranged for people to be murdered and then stole their ideas. This is not a biography of Escobar, although the first chunk of the novel reads that way. By necessity there is a large amount of background, first on the country and history and then on the man himself. What comes across very clearly is that the Columbian people loved (and still do love) a man who authorised the murder of hundreds of police and civilians to make a huge amount of money selling cocaine to the Americans. The book doesn't try to justify the Columbian peoples attitude to the drugs trade, not does it try to justify the clearly criminal activities employed by Columbian police and gangs who conspired to bring Escobar down. The facts are delivered in a nice middle of the road, matter of fact way. What is alluded to is the complicity of certain elements of the US government, military and criminal investigators who turned a blind eye to multiple murders as a means to an end.. Again this is presented in a non judgemental style. The facts are presented in a nice, easy to read style, the tale flows at a good pace and it is very enjoyable. Some details feel a little rushed which affects the score given. Oh to be able to give half stars because 3 stars feels a little harsh for a good effort but 4 stars would to too generous.
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on 30 October 2001
An avid reader of many of these types of books, the author really manages to place you in the scene, as if you too were on the hunt for Pablo. Unlike "spycatcher" the talk of radio monitoring is kept interesting and will make you amazed at what one can do with a cell phone.
Brilliantly planned and executed, well done Mark Bowden!
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on 17 June 2016
A fascinating look at one of the world's most notorious bad guys who wreaked havoc in his native country and became public enemy number one in America as the principle supplier of the tidal wave of cocaine that flooded the USA in the 80s and 90s.

The author provides a dispassionate assessment of both Escobar and the men, Columbian and American, who hunted him down. You are left to draw your own ethical conclusions - particularly in regards the vigilante group with close links to the Military who decide non-judicial action is the only way to get to Escobar, not to mention the playboy himself who has a decadent life style not disturbed by randomly killing anyone he disagrees with or who he believes poses a threat.

The only criticism I have of the book is it loses its way for some time in the middle of the story. It was something of a slog at times. Well worth persevering though. It's an important story.
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on 11 May 2002
Excellent background and unbelieveable story of the worlds richest coke dealer to-date. With 5 billion in the bank El Padrino weaved a tale of immesurable violence against the people who saught to capture him, with his charasmatic personallity and ability to scare the bejeebers out of all and sundry (including WHOLE goverments) -Mark Bowden captures the electrically charged atmoshphere between the goverments of Columbia and the USA who between them spent millions in $$'s and thousands of lives in 'killing Pablo'.
This is fantastically reseached and well written account of a tale of power absolute, corruption and the will of man who thought he could buy the country that sired him - he wanted to be respected!. It is mainly involved in the actual 'chase', 'inprisonment', 'escape', 'chase' and finally 'death' of one of the most powerful men in modern society. A must read from cover to cover. Enthrallingly in-depth.
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on 2 December 2007
This is a very good read told at a brisk pace. I came away feeling that Pablo was a bit of a tragic figure, with plenty of bad as well as plenty of good in him, mixed in with a very heavy dose of ambition fueling his rise to the top of the drug world. For all of the bad things Pablo seems to have done, I found it very sad and even tragic to see him hunted down and shot to death in the end. Colonel Martinez, Pablo's nemesis, comes across as an interesting and strong person who you also care about. As some critics have noted, perhaps the book should have been written by a Colombian, who would have greater familiarity with the subject matter, but Bowden seems to have done a very good and objective job of telling the story. Author of Adjust Your Brain: A Practical Theory for Maximizing Mental Health.
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on 29 May 2014
Read this fine book first time round in paperback and was completely blown away... I truly hadn't read anything this good for so long... So good in fact I picked up 2 other books by Mark Bowden (black Hawk down and another I forget the name of about a Trojan virus) unfortunately I really only enjoyed the latter and found BHD lacking in character development, whereas killing Pablo gets you right into the thick of it and takes you into the personal life of this infamous criminal... But my problem lies with this kindle edition on my second time round... Might just be me but it feels heavily edited with what feels like half the length missing...

Perhaps this is an abridged version, if so, avoid and read the entire book on print... Pity
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