Reviews for Savages

Booklist Reviews 2010 May #1
*Starred Review* Ben and Chon are two Americans running a lucrative marijuana operation out of ritzy Laguna Beach, California. Their business is buzzing along nicely until members of the Mexican Baja Cartel decide they want a piece of the action. Ben, a charitable, environmentally conscious Berkeley grad, doesn't want any trouble. Former Navy Seal Chon prefers peace as well but not if it means giving up primo weed. When Ben and Chon resist the Mexicans' demands, the cartel kidnaps "O" (short for Ophelia), the boys' close confidante and frequent bedroom playmate. Ben and Chon conjure clever schemes to outwit their adversaries and win back O, using everything from improvised explosive devices to Letterman and Leno masks. Edgar nominee and Shamus winner Winslow, who first evoked the violent world of the Mexican drug cartels in the best-selling narco-thriller Power of the Dog (2005), dispenses short chapters that drive his plot breathlessly forward. He also serves up plenty of savage wit. After Ben dons a Gerald Ford disguise for one of the pair's heists, he smacks his head against the car door, quipping, "I'm a method hijacker." Riddled with bullets and splattered with blood, Savages is not for the squeamish, but it's a must for Winslow fans. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 June #1

Winslow (The Dawn Patrol, 2008, etc.) turns a drug war into staccato serio-comedy that restricts the police to supporting roles.

Ben and Chon are old buddies whose complementary styles—Ben is laid-back and mellow, Chon is a former SEAL with baditude—have made them successful partners in a Southern California drug operation. Studious Ben has developed a strain of Ultra White Widow that gets the most jaundiced users high off one toke; Chon provides security for the operation, its distributors and their baby-doll mascot Ophelia. One day, duly constituted representatives of the Baja Cartel, under the leadership of engineer Hernan Lauter's iron-willed mother Elena, approach Ben and Chonny with an offer they can't refuse: Sell their product to Baja at wholesale prices and turn their distribution list over to the cartel so that the gross profits from Ultra White Widow can be redirected south of the border. The lads, who've been looking to get out of the drug business anyway, politely decline, then rapidly change their tune when Miguel ("Lado") Arroyo, Baja's advance man for SoCal, has Ophelia kidnapped and threatens to execute her instead of merely holding her hostage for three years. Now Chon's dander is up, and even Ben finds his gorge rising. Instead of accepting a demotion to Baja's growers, they make a counteroffer—name your price for a buyout that would spring O immediately—and then have to figure out a way to come up with the $20 million Baja demands. Their happy inspiration is to liquidate all their assets and then steal the shortfall from their extortionists' dealers and distributors. The result is a bloodbath presented in an inimitable combination of addled prose poetry and text messages (sample action prologue: "Now I'm one of them / He sights in again. / No time for / Lack of PTSD / He only hopes that / Gentle Ben / Increase-the-Peace Ben / is one of them, too, now.").

Graphic proof, if you needed it, that "you can't make peace with savages."

Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2010 March #1
What happens when environmentalist/philanthropist Ben and ex-mercenary Chon, who run a little marijuana operation in Laguna Beach, come up against a big Mexican drug cartel? For one thing, their friend Ophelia gets kidnapped. Winslow, a Shamus Award winner who's touted as a mix of Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen (courtesy of the Providence Journal), is being pushed as the next big, big thing. With a six-city tour. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal BookSmack
Initially, I picked this up because I thought the title was Sausages. Ah, well, my chiaroscuro lasagna will have to wait. Violent, poetic, and compelling, this seems like it should be reviewed in "The Word on Street Lit" column of BookSmack! It's about a lot of characters, but the main two guys are Chon and Ben, who grow and sell hydroponic weed in Laguna, CA. Their success becomes their undoing as their little startup bumps up against the big bad Baja Cartel, an absolutely ruthless drug syndicate run by an ice queen named Elena. It's all drugs, guns, murder, death. It's episodic, ugly, unholy, and no one seems to have a soul. All the characters are unlikable, repugnantly honest, and use the same, detached "voice." "Chon goes to the range all the time not because he's preparing for the revolution of the Reconquista, not because he has phallic wet dreams about protecting home and hearth from burglars or home invasion. You gotta love 'home invasions'-we thought it would be Mexicans, turns out it was mortgage companies. Chon likes shooting guns." Thing is, I want to know what happens next. I want to know what happens overall. And I hope like hell that there's some redemption in here somewhere.-Douglas Lord, "Books for Dudes," BookSmack! 7/1/10 Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 May #5

Spare, clipped expository prose and hip, spot-on dialogue propel this visceral crime novel from Winslow (The Dawn Patrol). The future is looking good for Laguna Beach, Calif., marijuana growers Ben and Chon, until they receive an ominous e-mail from the Baja Cartel. Attached is a photograph showing the decapitated bodies of other independent drug dealers. The message is clear: sell your product through us or else. Ben and Chon try to resist, but matters escalate after cartel thugs abduct Ophelia, the guys' beautiful young playmate and accomplice, and hold her for a cool million ransom. Meanwhile, Elena "La Reina" Sanchez Lauter, the leader of the Baja Cartel, must deal with rival drug gangs and potential overthrow from within. Ben and Chon propose a trade that Elena can't refuse, setting the stage for the violent and utterly satisfying ending. Winslow's encyclopedic knowledge of the border drug trade lends authenticity. (July)

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