That immersion may also contribute to Saviano overstating his thesis at various points, for instance when he declares that the story of Kiki Camarena, a DEA officer who infiltrated a Mexican cartel and was brutally murdered as a result, is "essential to understanding where our modern world begins, its birth pains, its principal path." A similarly overwrought and, with time, unbearable style of writing — a style never satisfied with stating a bad metaphor once ("Africa is white. The dark continent is buried under a blanket of white snow") — pervades ZeroZeroZero, which was translated from Italian by Virginia Jewiss. But Saviano never builds an argument to justify that sense of importance.
Reading ZeroZeroZero will undoubtedly convince you that the cocaine trade is expansive, enough that you could start seeing the drug wherever you look. But, as Saviano suggests, many of the social and political effects of trafficking could be extinguished through legalization. Because of that admission and others, the book never shakes the notion that cocaine might be superficial to our world, rather than essential to understanding its inner workings.
Saviano’s focus in ZeroZeroZero is not so much on the experience as on the industry that enables it. He’s particularly keen to show links between the familiar well-known Colombian and Mexican cartels and more obscure criminal networks in Russia, Italy and Africa. The book is bursting with unsettling facts and lurid anecdotes, many of them gathered through an obsessive investigative method that Saviano describes as an addiction in itself. His descriptions of how urban users prompt a complex international relay of money and drugs have a feverish, cinematic flavour.