Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Review: Broken

Broken Broken by Don Winslow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Broken is one of those rare books with six novellas offering something something different in each for crime fiction fans.

Do you want a dark and bloody tale about the cost of revenge? The title story Broken will cover that. How about a cat-and-mouse game between a slick professional thief and a dedicated cop hunting him? Crime 101 is what you’re looking for. Looking for a few laughs? The San Diego Zoo features a cop dealing with a chimpanzee with a revolver that has several hilarious lines and moments. Sunset is about trying to track down a bail jumper, but it’s also a reflection on aging, friendship, and loyalty. Another morality tale features some good hearted pot dealers screwing up Paradise despite their best intentions. Finally, The Last Ride uses a ripped-from-the-headlines plot that asks hard questions about what’s going on in America at the moment when disobeying the law might be the only way to be a decent person.

Like most writers Don Winslow’s style has evolved over the years as well as his subjects. He can write a more humorous and low stakes story based in San Diego surf culture, or he can dig into the gory details of Mexican drug wars. While there’s generally a conversational tone to his writing that feels like somebody is telling you a story, each one feels like it’s a different person in a different setting. For example, Broken has the same in-your-face cop attitude that was like his novel The Force so that seems like some wiseguy New Yorker is telling it to you over a shot and a beer in a dive bar. Yet others like Paradise have a more laid back SoCal feel so that one feels like you’re talking to a surfer at a beach party.

There’s also a feeling that this a retrospective of Winslow’s career with most of the surviving major characters from his previous books showing up throughout the stories. Seeing these older characters pop up and learn about their fates was a pleasure, and it gave me the urge to reread most of Winslow’s books.

It isn’t just about Winslow’s past though because we also get a couple of great homages to crime writing legends Elmore Leonard and Raymond Chandler. The San Diego Zoo is dedicated to Leonard and most definitely feels like one of his novels while Sunset is kind of a surfer based remake of Chandler’s The Long Goodbye.

It’s a fantastic set of long stories that I’d rank among Winslow’s best work.

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