By the time I finished this potentially very interesting work about an unquestionably important topic, I was downright irritable at the circuitous, repetitive and sometimes impenetrable book about what is almost certainly one of the key national security issues we face: the link between narco-trafficking and the terrorism that its profits finance.
Just from keeping up with the news, I knew this was an important topic and one I wanted to learn more of. Alas, this book didn't help much. Part of the problem is the structure -- Peters seems to make the same point over and over again, leaving me wondering why no editor had taken her material in hand and imposed some kind of order and coherence on it. Every so often, a segment would grab my attention, such as her quest into "HJK", the Afghan drug kingpin she compares to Khun Sa, the warlord of the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia. But then she quickly relapses into making the same point in different ways, relying more on comments from anonymous Westerners and other security officials than other first-hand observations, and quoting reports by other journalists. Why??? if she has spent the last decade in the region, surely she can bring her own observations and reporting to bear, instead of quoting her peers on what seem like banalities, such as: "What is new is the scale of this toxic mix of jihad and dope," writes journalist David Kaplan." That's the same point she's making in 17 different ways in the book; why quote another observer to make it #18?
Putting together this tendency to "tell" rather than "show" the reader what is happening, her reliance on other journalists' narratives to tell the story, and the circuitous nature of the book, left me with a disappointing book on my hands, and one that often felt as if it were written for a wire service or perhaps and news magazine and then streeettttchhhhed to fill an entire book. I'm sure there was new information in here, but frankly, you'd have to be following the drugs/terrorism connection with more than just average curiosity to detect it as it doesn't stand out. This struck me as an effort to drill down more deeply into one part of the vast interlinked criminal world that Misha Glenny chillingly outlined in McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld, but it didn't come close to matching Glenny's book in reach or style.
Recommended only to those with a compelling interest in the subject and enough tolerance for ponderous prose to wade their way through this in search of the nuggets it probably does contain. It's certainly a 5-star book, but I can't, in good conscience, award it more than three stars. Even Opium Season: A Year on the Afghan Frontier, which is little more than a memoir by a young member of one of the anti-opium taskforces that have tried combating the cultivation of poppies in Afghanistan ended up providing me with more insight into the broad issue, including the perspective of the Afghans themselves.