I was very excited to get started on this book for several different reasons. First, it was written by two colleagues of mine, professor and TCO expert Dr. George Grayson from the College of William & Mary, and journalist and author of This Is For The Mara Salvatrucha, Sam Logan. I've read most of the material written by both authors, so I knew it would contain a lot of good information.
Second, this is the first authoritative book ever written solely about Los Zetas, the most vicious, bloodthirsty, and ambitious TCO in Mexico. Of course, much has been written about Los Zetas over the years, but never this much, and never in this much detail.
It's obvious from the start that Grayson and Logan have done their homework. There's plenty of history about how Los Zetas were first recruited in the late 1990s, and joined the Gulf cartel as Osiel Cárdenas Guillen's private army. The authors cover how Los Zetas are organized, financed, armed, and trained, and these sections contain information that is a researcher's dream. The Executioner's Men also discusses the expansion of Los Zetas into Central America, as well as their operations in the United States - of particular interest and importance to my work.
One of my favorite parts is the chapter on Dual Sovereignty - how Los Zetas (and other TCOs in general) are operating as a state parallel to the Mexican state. The chart (one of many helpful charts and tables) in that chapter that outlines side by side all the state functions that both execute is quite eye-opening.
The book does have some down sides. First, it's not a page-turner; but then again, I don't think it's designed to be. I really hated it when my own book was criticized for things I never intended to do with it, because I believe a book should be reviewed with its purpose in mind. That being said, it's a great source of information for anyone who needs a solid source to cite for research. Unfortunately, that's the result of the book containing an overload of facts, figures, and names - my second dislike.
For anyone who has read Grayson's Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State?, this should come as no surprise. I'm familiar enough with both authors' work to know who wrote what sections. Logan's narrative is awesome, and I highly recommend you check out his first work on MS-13; it's really good, and a great inside look at how the world's most dangerous gang operates. I just wish Logan's narrative sections had been interspersed throughout this book more frequently to break up the deluge of narco names and stories of arrests and killings.
Bottom line, if you do any work or research related to Mexico's drug war, this needs to be in your book collection. I read it with my page marker Post-Its because I knew I'd come across information I could use in my writing post haste. It's not light summer reading to take to the beach, but again, remember - it's not designed to be. The Executioner's Men is an immensely valuable source of solid information on Los Zetas, and anyone who seeks to know more about this brutal organization should crack this book open sooner rather than later.