Bloodlines: The True Story of a Drug Cartel, the FBI, and the Battle for a Horse-Racing Dynasty by Melissa del Bosque is about a FBI money-laundering case involving a Mexican drug cartel and quarter horses.
This book ain’t The Right Stuff. Bloodlines has a much more conventional journalistic style and doesn’t employ fancy-schmancy literary techniques. It generally provides a kinda-overview of the case, some brief details into the lives of the main players – with an extra emphasis on one of the FBI agents – and a decent overview of the history of the Mexican drug cartels.
I think this book would have been improved had it just gone all out and framed the narrative as a thriller or procedural, strictly sticking to the point-of-view of the main FBI agent.
Without a strict narrative focus as a thriller or procedural, it needed to present a ton of detail – or tie this episode into a detailed, broader historical or social context – in order to be something special. As written, the book only scratches the surface of many of the topics it brings up: cartels, money laundering, horse racing, civil asset forfeiture, life on the border, federal inter-agency squabbling, bureaucratic inefficiency. It provides highlights, but it never really goes deep into the weeds. For example, it airs some of frustrations of the FBI agent with the obstacles presented by other agencies who want the investigation to have a different focus, but it never provides any justification or explanation for why the FBI case should have been the priority.
Basically, this book is just another non-fiction book written like a whole bunch of other non-fiction books: take a generally unusual or interesting “anecdote” of a story (drug cartels were buying American race horses, of all the things! and the FBI agent investigating it is from Tennessee! That’s far from Mexico!), splash some office conflict/gossip that is presumably generally favorable to the author’s sources (can you believe the DEA wanted to use the FBI’s source for something else!?), throw in some titillating details (kidnapping!), then call it a day and wait for a movie deal.
Ultimately, though, it’s a readable story (that could be made into a better movie) that wouldn’t be a bad read on an airplane or to kill a few hours. It’s not baaaad….it’s just not good.
My rating: 3 stars.