(2017) is a crime thriller by Don Winslow. Nominated for the 2018 Barry Award and the 2018 Anthony Award, The Force
explores police force corruption through the eyes of a crooked NYPD detective sergeant who fights gangs, drugs, and murderers. What most people don’t know is that although he’s good at his job, he steals money from each drug bust. It’s only a matter of time before he’s caught. Critics praise the book for its realism and a well-paced plot. Winslow is a bestselling American author. Before writing, he worked as a private investigator. Many of his novels are now major motion pictures.
Protagonist Denny Malone, a highly experienced officer with the NYPD, leads the department’s organized crime taskforce known as “Da Force,” an elite unit responsible for bringing drug cartel leaders and other organized criminals to justice. The NYPD doesn’t interfere with how Denny and his men operate—as long as they get the job done, they’re authorized to use any means necessary. At the book’s outset, Denny admits that he sometimes steals money from drug busts because no one checks on him. He believes that he is only doing what anyone would do in the same situation.
Denny is locked in a high-security federal prison. Recently, he and his team brought down a huge New York crime ring. The biggest heroin bust in New York City’s history, Denny stole millions of dollars before turning the proceeds over to the NYPD. He also stole drugs to sell to make money on the side, but he wasn’t careful, and the FBI eventually found enough evidence to arrest him. Denny reflects on what happened and how he ended up in lockdown.
Denny’s troubles start on Christmas Eve. Although he is married, he spends more time with his mistress than his wife; he’s not looking forward to Christmas with his family. He leaves his mistress’s house and heads for work, hoping to clear his head. When he gets there, his boss assigns him a new case, and it’s a big one.
The NYPD wants the task force to bring down a notorious drug lord, Devon Carter. They know he’s planning to buy guns to start a war with local Dominican gangs; if they don’t stop him, many people will die. Denny gets to work on the case, deciding the best place to start is with his usual informant, Fat Teddy.
Denny hauls in Fat Teddy on fabricated drug charges. He asks him about Devon and what his plans are. Fat Teddy claims that Devon recently traveled South to meet with white supremacist gangs. These gangs are happy to sell him guns because they want to be rid of the Dominican crew. In return for his information, Denny lets Fat Teddy go.
A few months go by, and Devon starts a war with the Dominicans. The Dominicans appoint a new leader, Carlos Castillo. He plans to kill Devon and dominate the New York drug scene. Denny’s boss calls him in to tell him that he’s not working hard enough on the case. He moves around members of Denny’s task force; telling him to get the job done or he won’t be leading the team for much longer.
With his new second-in-command, Levin, Denny shakes down a local apartment block. He arrests an insignificant member of Devon’s gang and pulls him in for questioning. While the team questions the gang member, Denny heads home, but the FBI pulls him over. They have evidence that Denny is protecting crooked cops and lawyers, and if he doesn’t rat them out, they’ll arrest him. Denny says he doesn’t know anything about crooked cops, but he’ll give them information on dirty lawyers.
Meanwhile, Levin posts surveillance on Fat Teddy and his associates. They find out that Devon entrusted the gun purchase to Fat Teddy, and they arrest him. Fat Teddy tells them that it’s too late to stop the deal, and so Denny poses as Fat Teddy’s associate and completes the deal in his place. Once Denny buys the guns from the white supremacists, Levin calls the FBI and they ambush the gang. Denny knows that there will be consequences because he has ruined a major deal for Devon.
In the meantime, Denny gives the FBI more information on dirty lawyers. He also hands over a crooked cop, Torres, because the FBI put immense pressure on him to comply. Everyone on the force finds out that Denny ratted on Torres, and he’s ostracized. Denny knows that if he doesn’t bust Devon’s gang soon to restore his credibility, he’s finished. In the meantime, he steals proceeds from the gang bust and sells heroin to a local mob boss for extra cash.
The FBI releases Denny from prison because they need his help with the war between Devon and the Dominicans. The mob boss, however, turns on Denny to protect himself, and Devon’s crew goes after Denny’s family. Denny and Levin fight the gang, but the gang kills Levin and seriously injures Denny. Denny dies before he can make it to the hospital.