After “The Days of the Dead” from 2010 and “The Cartel” from 2015, Don Winslow's trilogy about the drug war between Mexico and the USA comes to an end. On more than 980 pages in the hardcover version, Winslow proves which horror scenarios he can bring "visually stunning" to simple book pages. “The Years of the Hunter” is again more than just a drug thriller, it is a journey through a brutal world in an unscrupulous time - more haunting, excessive and unpredictable than in the previous volumes. This novel is not for the faint of heart, but the faint-hearted should also read it: Winslow has a lot to offer in literary terms.

Winslow is serious

There are writers who manage to hammer their stories into the minds of readers in impressive ways: Don Winslow is one of them - and he is a master at the skill. Like “Tage der Toten” and “Das Kartell”, the new novel “Jahre des Jäger”, published in German in the Publishing house Droemer-Knaur, a tour de force through the Mexican drug swamp.

Again the plot revolves around the supposed hero of the drug war Art Keller. Again it is about the eternal war against drug lord Adán Barrera as the personified evil, which with almost magical attraction arouses fascination with the reader. Art Keller could have sworn that he finally defeated Barrera at the end of "The Cartel". Instead of the final, all-important battle, Keller has only won one more skirmish. The grand finale now follows in "Years of the Hunter" - and everything is going differently than ever before.

"Art gets right between the fronts "


Politics played an important role in the previous books. In the final volume of the drug crime trilogy, the ugly grimaces of the corrupt political landscapes of Mexico and the USA are revealed. Corruption is no longer just an existing evil, it is the most powerful weapon of criminal organizations.

The blurb says it all: "Incredible. Cruel. Real". Photo: André Volkmann
The blurb says it all: "Incredible. Horrible. Real". Photo: André Volkmann

For years, the cartels have infiltrated the US government, which is now headed by a new president. "The Years of the Hunter" is a "harrowing story of revenge, corruption and justice and a relentless portrait of modern America," it says on the spine of the book. Actually.   


What is called “Years of the Hunter” in German-speaking countries is simply called “The Border” in the original. And this novel has a lot to do with borders, especially those in your own head. With his current work Don Winslow overcomes almost all boundaries: those of thoughts of a good world, those of good taste, those of the feeling of security. On almost 1.000 pages, Winslow unravels a plot that you don't really want to know about, but which you have to know. Because the modern world works that way too.

The action overcomes boundaries. Photo: André Volkmann
The action overcomes boundaries. Photo: André Volkmann

Don Winslow overcomes borders in "Years of the Hunter" also geographically, because the action takes place to a large extent in the United States. Readers are therefore looking at the drug war between Mexico and the United States from a completely new angle. The level of tension is enormous, sometimes unbearable. As a reader, one would like to skip passages just to resolve individual scenes more quickly. You shouldn't really do that, because sometimes it is details that make up the crime story. ?

“Adán Barrera became in death what he never was in life. A rock star. "

from "Years of the Hunter"

Responsible for the success of the trilogy are the characters that Don Winslow created - partly based on real people. Above all, Adán Barrera delights readers with his tightrope walk between charming and hideous. “Barrera was a phantom, a chimera, the mysteriously invisible power behind the world's largest terrorist organization, a genius that could neither be captured nor tracked down.” The events of Adán Barrera are a story within history, finely interwoven with the bigger picture.  

"Vegas, baby." Photo: André Volkmann
"Vegas, baby." Photo: André Volkmann

In a miraculous way, “Years of the Hunter” is a family gathering of horror - and the reader is ashamed of it. You often meet old friends in “Years of the Hunter”. You then remember with a smile all those atrocities for which the main and secondary characters of the drug crime trilogy are known - on all sides of the fighter. How expansive the new novel deals with the characters is proven by the fact that the directory contains a total of 57 entries. And each one is relevant. It's not always clear because a lot is happening. Sometimes in quick succession.

"Word Violence"

With all the horrors, which are also eloquently described in "Years of the Hunter", the reader feels guilty because one likes the way the plot is organized. Don Winslow succeeds again in mixing facts and fiction in such a way that a credible story emerges that makes the Mexican drug war thematically tangible - in all its brutal absurdity. With “Years of the Hunter” Winslow has written another remarkable novel that will undeniably be one of the best of the year, maybe even crime thriller of the year, although the year has only just begun.

Maybe the best crime novel of the year. Photo: André Volkmann
Maybe the best crime novel of the year. Photo: André Volkmann

The relentless adventure also depicts the real world. Winslow does not skimp on criticism as political systems and excessive power. Don Winslow believes that many of the deadly conflicts are avoidable. Winslow is not a politician, but he is a political person. “Years of the Hunter” often puts its finger in one of the many wounds in the US political landscape. His stories seem gloomy, desperate, mostly hopeless - and the bureaucracy does its part to ensure that peace is out of the question.

"But there is hope." Photo: André Volkmann
"But there is hope." Photo: André Volkmann

And then there is this border, "The Border", the plan for a wall between the USA and Mexico. “Years of the Hunter” feels like an attack on the current US presidency, perhaps rightly. Simply pulling up a wall in a barren landscape cannot be the solution to a problem for which there seem to be no boundaries. In his novel, Winslow once again makes the drug problem tangible for everyone, sometimes subtly - sometimes with a blood-drenched crowbar, but always comprehensibly embedded in a framework. "Years of the Hunter" by Don Winslow, published by Droemer-Knaur, is a masterpiece.