Broken, by Don Winslow.
What an absolute pleasure it is to read this latest by Don Winslow, because the quality of his writing is so reliable. The reader knows that there’ll be no slacking off because the author is bored with his characters or fed up with the plot – in these five short stories, the opposite is true as Mr Winslow thrills, charms and horrifies us with the richness and humour of his prose and the harsh and terrible reality of criminal greed and corruption, especially among those who paint themselves whiter than us all.
‘Broken’ is first, telling the story of a Police family: Mum Eva operates the department switchboard, her husband has recently retired from the police and she has two sons who have taken his place; son Andy is a high-flying Drug Squad detective, and younger brother Danny is a patrolman. Danny is ‘The Nice One’. The sensitive one. And he is the one who is kidnapped from his patrol car, tortured and murdered because brother Andy sent the wrong message to a drug dealer. Eva and her family want – need revenge, and she instructs Andy accordingly. Danny is avenged, but nobody feels better for it: as she knows all too well, 'it don’t matter how you come into the world, you leave it broken'.
The next three stories are gems, comparatively gore-free and full of sly or laugh-out-loud humour; with continuing characters, con-men and thieves of varying intelligence, but the story that will stay with me permanently is ‘The Last Ride’, the story of Good Ole Texan Boy Cal Strickland, not much motivated to do anything except his job as a Border Guard – until he becomes incensed at the new law that came in via the new President (Hell, Cal voted for him!) that separates asylum-seeker refugees from their children, resulting in parents being deported, and their children permanently lost in ‘the system’. This doesn’t sit at all well with Cal, particularly when he comes across a little 6 year-old Honduran girl in a cage: WHAT IS HAPPENING TO HIS COUNTRY??!!
And Cal is so horrified by her circumstances that he, a law-abiding (former) Trump supporter, decides to take the law into his own hands, and attempt to return the little girl to her deported Mum – knowing that should he be successful, his life as he knows it will be over, for no-one humiliates Washington and gets away with it.
Mr Winslow is an enormously powerful writer and he demonstrates with every new novel that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. This is a mighty book. SIX STARS.