Review: The Force by Don Winslow

An absolutely fantastic novel.

Denny Malone is the top dog in the manhattan north task force in New York City. He has a strict moral code when it comes to family and friends. On the record he looks like a dirty cop but off the record he’s just trying to protect the neighborhood he loves. If he has to crack a few skulls or take some money from gangsters and pay shady attorneys he does. Malone takes care of business and makes sure the streets remain peaceful as possible. All until bigger dogs, the FBI, come gunning for Malone, then it’s a battle for survival. For him and his family.

The Force feels like it’s meant to be a classic and I think it is. It’s Goodfellas meets The Shield. Winslow is one of those writers that has his own style and he does it very well. Quick, tight sentences come at you hard and heavy. He does an interesting thing where he uses first, second, and third person to tell the story and it actually works pretty well. Every character’s voice is authentic and in your face. They all feel like real people even down to the secondary ones. It’s tailor made for a movie and I hope it becomes one.

Winslow’s prose is so lean and the pace is so fast though, that sometimes he doesn’t successfully pluck the emotional chord he intends to pluck. It falls flat and you whip right by it and keep going. Also, the book feels a little cliche at times and I think that’s because of the setting. New York is used so much in books and movies I actually feel like it hurt The Force to a degree. Even if it is a great story, it’s as if we’ve seen all this before. If it had been set in a different city, LA or Chicago or somewhere South, it might have felt a little more like its own thing. Maybe not completely original, but at least have its own look and feel.

Judging from Winslow’s twitter account I expected this to be heavy left-leaning arguments, but I was surprised to find that he balanced both sides of some tough subjects very well. We get the voice of the police from Malone and his crew and the things they have to deal with everyday, but we also see the other side with how other characters feel about the things the police do. Malone’s girlfriend Claudette, and the FBI agents for example. I feel like he kept an even keel on these things we all see on the news and social media everyday.

I sometimes talk smack about grocery store writers, those authors whose books you can always find in any grocery store no matter what. I bought The Force in one and I believe it deserves that amount of exposure. I’ve only read a couple of his books, but Don Winslow has already made my list of top 5 writers. Highly recommended.