Savages by Don Winslow

The Power of the Dog is one of my favourite books, so I had high expectations for Savages. And I was not disappointed. It has the in your face, impassive narrative of gruesome violence and explicit sex in a pacey present-tense style that is the Winslow trademark. The story portrays two laid-back, but quite differently motivated characters, Ben and Chon, whose wealthy lifestyles as successful marijuana producers is threatened by an invading Baja cartel. Avoiding confrontation becomes impossible after their shared girlfriend “O” is kidnapped. Yet even with the predictable violence that follows, Winslow manages to achieve empathy for even the villain, the head of the Baja cartel, Elena, who it seems is forced to carry out her despicable acts by the position she’s been thrust into. Its short chapter lengths and quirky narrative keep the reader amused, in suspense and turning the page (or in my case clicking the forward button on the Kindle). The viewpoint characters are strong and have a wonderful depth.

The only problem I had was that I started reading the story on a flight to Sydney, and was sitting next to an old lady who expressed some fascination in the Kindle. I was a little shocked when I opened up the Kindle file to show her how a book appeared. Chapter 1 has only two words: “F… you.” The lady sort of smiled and went back to her magazine.