Quick Review: BROKEN by Don Winslow (William Morrow)

WinslowD-BrokenUSHCA must-read collection of interlinked crime novellas

In six intense short novels connected by the themes of crime, corruption, vengeance, justice, loss, betrayal, guilt and redemption, Broken is #1 international bestseller Don Winslow at his nerve-shattering, heart-stopping, heartbreaking best. InBroken, he creates a world of high-level thieves and low-life crooks, obsessed cops struggling with life on and off the job, private detectives, dope dealers, bounty hunters and fugitives, the lost souls driving without headlights through the dark night on the American criminal highway.

With his trademark blend of insight, humanity, humor, action and the highest level of literary craftsmanship, Winslow delivers a collection of tales that will become classics of crime fiction

I’m a relative newcomer to Don Winslow’s novels. Since reading The Force, however, he has become a must-read author for me. Broken is his latest book: a superb, gripping collection of six novellas. Each takes a different look at the crime, mystery and/or thriller genres. One of my most-anticipated books of the year, I’m very happy to report that it absolutely met my very high expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

The six stories in Broken take us to very different parts of the United States. In the first story, “Broken”, Winslow gives us a pretty brutal, muscular cop revenge story set in New Orleans — it’s an intense, violent, and action-packed story. A pretty strong statement to open the collection.

Three stories — “Crime 101”, “The San Diego Zoo”, and “Sunset” — are set in San Diego and Southern California, and are the most inter-connected of all of the stories. I really liked meeting these characters, and learning more about them as each subsequent story focused on a different one, with a different feel and slightly-different style (they’re all recognizably Winslow). A high-end thief works on his final score in the first, as a dogged detective finally catches a break on his hunt for the robber. In “Sunset”, we get a story about aging bail bondsmen and bounty hunters, coming to terms with their age, while searching for one of their own who’s finally crossed a line, and also trying to navigate the recent changes in California law with regards to their business. “The San Diego Zoo” is a fantastic story, very funny and with an extremely endearing protagonist. It also has one of the best openings I’ve read in some time:

No one knows how the chimp got the revolver.

Only that it’s a problem.

In “Paradise”, we are reunited with the characters from Winslow’s Savages (which was adapted into a very good movie by Oliver Stone). Set in Hawaii, Ben, Chon and Ophelia are investigating the possibility of expanding their marijuana business into Hawaii, where the soil and climate would be perfect for the cultivation of a new crop. They come up against the local criminal element, but form a close alliance and friendship with another transplant to the islands. Things come to a head in an explosive conclusion.

There are actually a number of cameos in the collection, featuring characters from a number of Winslow’s previous novels. In addition to Savages, we also see some characters from The Dawn Patrol, The Death and Life of Bobby Z and The Winter of Frankie Machine. While I haven’t read all of Winslow’s back catalogue — in fact, I have more to catch up on than I’m comfortable admitting given how excellent a writer he is — it was nevertheless fun to see these characters appear, even if only in passing. I’m sure long-time fans of the author’s work will enjoy their presence even more than I did.

The final story in the book, “The Last Ride”, is a powerful examination of the detention centres along the US-Mexico border. The protagonist, a border agent, becomes interested and invested in the fate of a very young girl in the facility. How did she get there? Where are her parents? What is going to happen to her now? It’s a powerful, wrenching story, with a tragic ending. Excellent, trenchant critique of what’s happening on the US border today.

Overall, this is a superb collection, and a fantastic read. Winslow remains one of my favourite authors: great characters, excellent writing, gripping and relevant stories. Broken is one of the best books of the year.

Very highly recommended.


Don Winslow’s Broken is published by William Morrow in North America and Harper Collins in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via Edelweiss

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