A striking exploration of the horrors of mass violence in the Western Hemisphere, with the author offering hope that radical...




British journalist Grillo (El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency, 2011) risks life and limb to interview gangsters, police, and victims of violence in this harrowing account of Latin American crime syndicates.

The author focuses on four criminal hotspots: Brazil, Jamaica, Mexico, and Central America. In each, he describes the impoverished landscape and blood-soaked history of the region, explaining the origins of certain crime networks and the national trauma they have wrought. Grillo has an impressive eye for detail: he writes vividly about pet dogs in Honduran prisons, the piecemeal construction of Jamaican garrisons, and the exact smell of a Mexican mass grave. The author’s prose style is levelheaded, but given the warlords’ fondness for kidnapping and even beheading journalists, the book drips with suspense. Slowly, Grillo makes his case that gangsters have become de facto leaders and celebrities, as powerful as any security force, and the war on drugs has proven a catastrophic failure. But he also appreciates the difficulty of governing such anarchic countries. “There are certainly some corrupt politicians who should not be in power,” he writes. “But in the crime wars, the solution is not as simple as toppling a president. After they are gone, you will still be left with billions of drug dollars, corrupt police, and ineffective courts.” Grillo also has a soft spot for many of the people he met, even trained killers. After describing vicious gun battles in the streets of Jamaica’s capital, he adds, “crime aside, I find the people of West Kingston to be warm and open, as in the ghettos from Brazil to Mexico. Like many other outsiders who have trekked into these areas, I’m touched by the people’s generosity of spirit.” Grillo dedicates his final chapter to practical solutions, distinguishing himself from lesser journalists content to sensationalize crime and leave it at that.

A striking exploration of the horrors of mass violence in the Western Hemisphere, with the author offering hope that radical policies could provide positive change.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62040-379-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet