Don Winslow scores again with Savages. Two Laguna Beach buddies, Ben and Chon, operate a top-of-the-line marijuana business. Ben is a laid-back environmentalist and philanthropist; Chon is an ex-Navy Seal and former mercenary. They grow their own product, which is much desired, and they have a loyal and exclusive clientele. Both Ben and Chon are in love with the beautiful Ophelia, a spoiled local rich girl who loves both of them in return.
There have been occasional minor threats to the business, but they have been quickly dealt with by Chon. Now, though, a Mexican cartel has decided to take over Ben and Chon's operation and the Mexicans also insist that Ben and Chon continue to grow the product for them, effectively becoming the cartel's employees. When Ben and Chon refuse, the cartel kidnaps Ophelia, insisting that they will hold her captive until Ben and Chon agree to the cartel's "offer." Should they continue to refuse, gruesome things will be done to Ophelia. Ben and Chon, determined to rescue Ophelia and to preserve their independence, declare war on the cartel.
"Savages" is, by turn, very funny and extremely violent. Winslow who wrote perhaps the best fictional account of the drug trade ever published, the classic The Power of the Dog, is in great form. As usual, he captures brilliantly the Southern California lifestyle while at the same time skewering the misadventure that is the "war" on drugs. This is not a book for the faint of heart, but for anyone who might not yet have discovered Winslow, it's a great place to start.