Book Review: El Narco

| Tue Oct. 25, 2011 5:00 AM EDT

El Narco

By Ioan Grillo

BLOOMSBURY PRESS

In 2004, as Mexico's drug violence took a particularly bloody turn, Ioan Grillo was writing for the Houston Chronicle. His editor had one request: "Cover it like a war!" This graphic and fast-paced history covers south-of-the-border trafficking from '60s-era shipments of Acapulco Gold to the decapitation-filled headlines wrought by the likes of kingpin (and alleged billionaire) Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán and his rivals, the Zetas—special ops soldiers turned criminals. As Grillo tells it, the cartels' fratricide has barely dented an industry that nets an estimated $30 billion per year: "In the drug business, it seems, a war economy functions perfectly well."