In his typical journalist’s style, the author combines interviews, wiretaps, and personal experiences to show how the world of cartels isn’t as far away as you think.
It begins with a full history of the Sinaloa cartel and the rise of El Chapo, recently escaped from jail in Mexico, who Saviano described as the Steve Jobs of drug trafficking. ‘Coke, marijuana, amphetamines: Most of the substances that Americans smoke, snort or swallow have passed through his men’s hands.’
The story follows cocaine from plant to ‘product’ at break-neck speed and it’s an eye-opening report of how cocaine is the world’s most prosperous market: ‘there are plenty of corners of the planet where people live without hospitals, without the Web, without running water. But not without cocaine.’
In essence, it’s a story of barefaced capitalism, which looks at the entrepreneurial spirit of the old-school cartels with a small hint of admiration. Its only weakness is in its detail, where endless names of drug lords, their wives, corrupt police and undercover agents can dull the impact of an otherwise blistering narrative.
ZERO ZERO ZERO by Roberto Saviano; Allen Lane; £20 (hardback/ebook)
This review was published in the September 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine