I read this while on vacation in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, and it was thrilling and a bit scary reading how the Baja Cartel owns resorts in, ah, Cabo. Even the pelicans started getting the stink eye from me.

The story and characters pulled me in and fulfilled the key item on my checklist: I wanted some characters to live and some to die. All of the main players have to make some morally tough decisions, but Winslow does a masterful job of laying it out so the right choice is clear, legal or not. He weaves in some history that is vital to the plot and explains how the cartels came about—information worth knowing in general, and fascinating in the context of the story.

The prose is clean and sharp with some great winks and nudges that fit the SoCal tone and characters very well. Savages by Don Winslow is a first-round KO: Fast, brutal, and over too quickly.