Review: Novelist Don Winslow goes small and succeeds wildly

"Broken" by Don Winslow (William Morrow)

Don Winslow, whose work includes a dozen of the finest crime novels written in the last 20 years, displays all of his strengths, including propulsive narration, compelling characters and a tight, staccato writing style, in "Broken," a collection of six remarkable novellas.

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The length of his novels has been swelling in recent years, his latest, "The Force," exceeding 700 pages; so these tales, each about 50 pages long, are a departure for him. They vary in tone, but each, in its own way, conveys the sense that the people and/or American institutions he portrays are broken.

One yarn, "The San Diego Zoo," does it with a touch of humour, its first sentence, "No one knows how the chimp got the revolver," making it virtually impossible not to read on.

Another, "The Last Ride," does it with a dose of righteous anger as a Donald Trump supporter, horrified by the sight of a little girl in a cage, sets out to reunite her with her mother in defiance of his Border Patrol superiors.

Others portray a New Orleans cop violently avenging the murder of his brother, a cat-and-mouse game between a clever jewel thief and a dogged California police detective, a San Diego bail bondsmen on the hunt for a former surfer god turned junkie killer, and a team of California marijuana growers trying to establish a base of operations on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

Fans of his novels will find familiar characters here, including drug dealers Ben, Chon and O from "Savages" and the team of surfing detectives from "Dawn Patrol." But Winslow also introduces memorable new characters including an iconoclastic police lieutenant named Ronald "Lou" Lubesnick.

The tales, three of them appropriately dedicated to Elmore Leonard, Steve McQueen, and Raymond Chandler, all unfold at a torrid pace that will leave readers both satisfied and wishing for more.

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Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including "The Dread Line."

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