A sturdy, unadorned tale of true crime and its foes.



A leading Drug Enforcement Agency officer recounts his long battle against South American cartels and a Mexican kingpin.

As Riley’s memoir opens, he’s on the run, being chased on a Texas highway into New Mexico by hit men in the employ of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, better known as El Chapo. He was outgunned, but somehow he got out of it, whereupon he turns back the clock to the beginning of his career. After turning down an offer from the more prestigious FBI, he joined the DEA and went to war against the Colombian cartel, then personified by Pablo Escobar, whose “real-life narrative was straight out of a Hollywood gangster movie.” Escobar was also a smart businessman who knew a market when he saw it, flooding the insatiable United States with cocaine. By Riley’s lights, El Chapo was worse yet, a vicious criminal who conducted at least some of his enterprise from the safety of a Mexican prison. The author notes that El Chapo wasn’t just involved in cocaine and marijuana, but was a leading purveyor of opioids: “While I believe that many are responsible for our nation’s drug crisis, including unscrupulous doctors, pharmacies, wholesale drug distributors, drug companies, and the banking industry, none played a bigger criminal role than El Chapo.” Flushing him out of hiding after his escape from prison and getting him extradited to the U.S. was no easy matter, but it provides a satisfying payoff to Riley’s eventful story. There’s a by-the-numbers aspect to the narrative, including the requisite tough-guy language (the bad guys are “scumbags” and “jagoffs,” among other choice epithets), as well as complaints about the typical bureaucratic hassles involved in honoring the Fourth Amendment. But Riley is an equal-opportunity despiser of those who got in the way, including actor Sean Penn (“an exploitative asshole”) and Utah congressman Jason Chaffetz ("This dickhead had no idea how hard I worked, or even what DEA agents did”).

A sturdy, unadorned tale of true crime and its foes.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60286-583-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...


The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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