Chemical Cowboys by Lisa Sweetingham: Review

Sunday, June 21, 2009 Posted by Dina N

Book Description
CHEMICAL COWBOYS: The DEA's Secret Mission to Hunt Down a Notorious Ecstasy Kingpin is the thrilling, never-before-told success story of the groundbreaking undercover investigations that led to the toppling of a billion-dollar Ecstasy trafficking network, starting in 1995 when New York DEA Agent Robert Gagne infiltrated club land to uncover a thriving drug scene supported by two cultures: pill-popping club kids and Israeli dealers.

My Review
Until I read this book, I had a vague idea of what Ecstasy was. I knew nothing about how the Ecstasy epidemics came to the U.S., or how the infamous X pills were smuggled and distributed. Lisa Sweetingham, the journalist who wrote Chemical Cowboys, offers an insight into one international criminal enterprise that made Ecstasy a thriving business. Her book is the result of years of reporting and research and her readers benefit from Lisa's unprecedented access to DEA materials. Almost all names in Chemical Cowboys are real, and the book is closer to a documentary than to fiction.

I went through the first few chapters slowly to make sense of the events and be able to tell apart the numerous players in the Ecstasy drama. The rest of the 400+ pages were a faster read, similarly to a good crime movie. As entertaining as Chemical Cowboys is, I feel I learned a lot about the origins of Ecstasy and the tireless work of DEA and its sister organizations abroad to bring down the deadly distribution network and give its criminal masterminds what they deserved.

Chemical Cowboys is a thrilling read that would make a great Father's Day gift - in case you, like me, are a bit behind getting one this year. You can read more about the book and Lisa Sweetingham at her website, and also find excerpts from Chemical Cowboys.

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