3 out of 4 stars
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Why has the war on drugs been so difficult to win? That is the question that is explored in Path of the Devil: Camino del Diablo by Dianne DeMille, Ph.D., Larry Hardin, Jeffrey Pearce, and Randy Torgerson. This story is a non-fiction narrative of three of the authors, who worked together in the 1990s to bring down the leaders of a Mexican drug cartel operating in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico, just across the border from Yuma, Arizona.
Larry Hardin was a DEA agent in Yuma who was tasked with finding the perpetrators of the attempted murder of two DEA agents in 1975. Hardin’s investigation led him to the Meraz brothers and their shady world of drug trafficking. Simultaneously, Jeff Pearce and Randy Torgerson were private investigators hired by the owner of a manufacturing company to investigate one of the primary shareholders, who he suspected of using his company trucks to import drugs. The three men eventually crossed paths and joined forces in their attempt to bring the Merazes to justice. Unfortunately, they faced unforeseen obstacles, mainly from the supposed “good guys.” This shocking and provocative story delves into the levels of corruption witnessed by the authors, from American border and customs agents, to law enforcement, to politicians at the local and national level, to the CIA.
The book switches between the first-person accounts of each of the three investigators as they get deeper into the case. This way the reader witnesses the discoveries made by each of the men and how they are tied together. It also allows for the reader to get to know each of the characters as an individual and understand his motivations. I found myself getting invested in their lives and really rooting for their success.
For the most part, the novel is fast-paced and written in a way that keeps the reader wondering what will happen next. In addition to the business of the case itself, there are some humorous or interesting anecdotes sprinkled throughout the story. The reader can really get a feel for the lives of these men and what it would be like to be a DEA agent or a private investigator.
There were so many elements of this story that I found fascinating, such as the ways the cartels managed to get their drugs across the border. In this particular case, the Meraz brothers had somehow gotten their own relatives employed in positions along the port of entry to the United States. They had hired children to spray random truck tires with marijuana-infused water to cause a stir and get their own trucks through with little notice. They had even paid off dog handlers to retrain their dogs not to alert when their trucks passed through.
Despite thoroughly enjoying this book, there are some issues I need to address. The first is the lack of dates in the story. Phrases like “another time” or “a few months later” are frequently used, or a new chapter will start with no indication of the date or year at all. I realize that these are personal accounts and there may not be exact dates available for everything, but even giving an estimate of early or late in a particular year would have made it easier for me to follow along with the timeline. The other issue I have is with some of the sources that are used. The authors cite sources from CounterPunch to Breitbart and everywhere in between. It’s nice to see that the authors are open to using references from all over the ideological spectrum. However, I think that sticking to more centrist and reliable sources would improve the credibility of their story, especially given that this book takes on hot-button issues such as border security and governmental corruption.
This book could use another round of professional editing, as I found more than ten errors throughout the text. Most of these errors were minor, but given the quantity, it proved to be a distraction. Overall, I really enjoyed this story, but due to the errors and my issues with the sources and lack of dates, I rate it 3 out of 4 stars. I think there is a lot of potential here, as these issues are fairly easy fixes. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories of drug cartels or federal investigations. People who prefer stories with clear-cut good and bad guys or who want to believe that the United States government is always working in the best interest of its citizens might want to skip this one.
Path of the Devil: Camino del Diablo
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