DOWN BY THE RIVER: Drugs, Money, Murder, and Family

Charles Bowden, Author . Simon & Schuster $27 (448p) ISBN 978-0-684-85343-7

In January 1995, Lionel Bruno Jordan was shot dead in the parking lot of an El Paso, Tex., K-Mart. A police investigation concluded that it was a botched carjacking; a 13-year-old Mexican was charged and convicted. Bruno's brother Phil, a rising DEA official, suspected the murder had to do with his drug- busting work, but his attempts to get the agency to investigate were blocked at every turn. Exploring this mystery, prize-winning author Bowden weaves an intricate tale of treachery, deceit, corruption and death on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. The Mexican government was implicated in the drug trade all the way up to the office of then-president Carlos Salinas, and Bowden talks with former Mexican officials who fled to the U.S. to avoid being killed off. Phil Jordan was drawn into a life of casino gambling in a vain attempt to raise enough money to pay off Mexican officials and get them to talk. Bowden also tracks the exploits of Mexican drug lord Amado Carrillo, based right across the border from El Paso in Juárez, who more than likely ordered a hit on Bruno. Bowden maintains an intense noirish tension throughout, though some may find his use of interior monologue irritating at times (particularly when he puts the reader inside the mind of the dead man, Bruno). Still, that doesn't mar a dramatic detective story and a biting critique of the U.S. war on drugs. Agent, Kathy Anderson. (Nov.)

Forecast:Bowden has received high praise for his recent Blues for Cannibals and earlier books. Widespread media attention could mean significant sales for this one.

Reviewed on: 09/30/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
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