MS-13: The Making of America’s Most Notorious Gang

Hanover Square: Harlequin. May 2020. 352p. ISBN 9781335005540. $28.99. CRIME
Dudley (codirector & cofounder, InSight Crime; Walking Ghosts) has written the definitive account of MS-13, the violent international crime organization. This panoramic narrative ties together the gang’s formation in Los Angeles, by immigrants from El Salvador seeking protection from other gangs; Dudley also examines MS-13’s links with the Mexican Mafia and relevance to American immigration and foreign policy. The book benefits greatly from the perspectives of a gang leader, a recruit, the Salvadoran military, and U.S. federal and state agents. Like a deadly virus, MS-13 has mutated, and Dudley provides a chilling, even-handed account of its origins. Norman, the gang leader seeking asylum in the United States, is at the center of Dudley’s work. He grew up amid violence in El Salvador, embraced MS-13 as a new family, and ultimately tried to leave it. This volume is more complete than its predecessors—such as Samuel Logan’s This Is for the Mara Salvatrucha and Juan José Martínez d' Aubuisson’s A Year Inside MS-13—and reflects the author’s deep knowledge of the subject, derived from his local reporting and codirection of a government funded three-year study of MS-13 in the United States.
VERDICT An outstanding book for true crime readers.
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