Today is my stop on the blog tour for ‘Kilo’ by Toby Muse, organised by Damppebbles Blog Tours. I was delighted to participate in this tour, and to read this fascinating book – the first non-fiction review for this blog – and I hope that you will check out both the author and the book.
*Disclaimer: ‘I was given a copy this book in exchange for an honest review.’*
Join the deadly journey of cocaine, from farmer to kingpin.
Meet Maria. Maria doesn’t see herself as a criminal. She’s just a farmhand picking the crops that never lose money: coca.
This is Cachote. He prays to the Virgin of the Assassins that his bullets find their target. If he misses, he’ll have to answer to the cartel who pay him to take out their enemies.
Pedro works the coca labs. But this laboratory is hidden deep in the jungle, and he turns coca leaves into coca paste, a step just short of cocaine.
And finally, here is Alex. Alex is a drug-lord and decides where the drug goes next: into Europe or the US. And he wields the power of life and death over everyone around him.
Following one brick of cocaine from Colombia’s jungles to the Pacific Ocean as it races to join global underworld economy, Kilo is an unprecedented journey to the violent heart of the cocaine industry. On the way we will meet drug lords, contract killers, drug mules, cartel witches, as well as the Colombian police and US Coast Guard who are desperately trying to stop the kilo reach the consumers in the world’s richest countries.
Toby Muse has been on the ground in the drug war for over a decade, earning the trust of those involved on all sides. Telling the human stories of how the world’s second most popular drug gets from the Colombian jungle to the London street corner, Kilo is a devastating account of a multi-billion-pound business whose influence reaches across the world.
Kilo promised to be an exciting read from the moment I read the summary, but it turned out to be so much more. This book is a fascinating tour-de-force of the Colombian drugs world that most people could never imagine let alone experience. It brings it home to the reader through a combination of a personality and a well-paced, fluid writing style. Although it is non-fiction, the choice to follow a single kilo of cocaine on every inch of its journey creates a captivating story that carries the reader along with it.
What I enjoyed the most about Kilo, is that it takes such a broad, multi-dimensional view of the drug business, meaning that we get to see and experience all parts of the journey. From, those who are involved only briefly for one stage, to those who are a fixture of the process. You can see how it affects the life not only of them but broader life in Colombia and beyond, as the Kilo’s impact and travels go beyond borders. There is a wide cast of characters from the coca leave harvesters, to rebels and smugglers, and on the flip side those working to stop them, showing their experiences, motivations and their lives as a result of the drug’s trade, whether willing or unwilling participants.
The book does not shy away from the violence of this world. It doesn’t try to soften the brutality, or how hopeless the situation can be for those involved. Nor, does it try to absolve the participants of their roles in that world. Instead, there is a recognition of the fact that this is a different world, and that those who are involved, may not have a choice, and where what most of us only see in news reports or dramatized for tv – violence and murder and assassination – are in fact a part of daily life for these people. That understanding and the way Muse has approached the topic, and the big questions that arise from looking at the drug world without blinkers make this a very human story. So even readers who will never experience this world for themselves can emphasize with the story. And I finished the book very much with the feeling ‘but for the grace of God’ because these are real people, whose life took that path whether through choice, situation or desperation.
Kilo was a thought-provoking read and what that will remain with you for a while. The writing was fantastic, investigative but descriptive, bringing the account to life through skill and personality. The narrative does not let you go from start to finish, immersing you in this journey from the coca farms to the international market. I would highly recommend this masterful view of the drug’s world to anyone with interest in non-fiction, and or crime fiction. And I hope that many people will leap at this chance to take this journey.
About the Author:
Toby Muse is a British-American writer, television reporter, documentary filmmaker and foreign correspondent. He has reported from the front lines of the conflicts in Colombia, Iraq and Syria. He has embedded with soldiers, rebels and drug cartels, producing exclusive reports from cocaine laboratories and guerrilla jungle camps. He lived in Bogota, Colombia for more than fifteen years, reporting across South America and the endless drug war.
Kilo – Toby Muse (Published in hardcover and digital formats by Ebury Publishing on 26th March 2020) – 5/5 (5 Stars)
If you’ve read it or read in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book. Or if you have any recommendations for similar books, please shoot them my way.
#Kilo @tobymuse @EburyPublishing @EmmaFinnigan @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours