Critical Book Review of Webs of Smoke

This captivating book by Kathryn Meyer and Terry Parssinen is an example of a book that is well thought out as well as researched. The authors have done exceptionally well to delve into the throes of history in an attempt to explain the complex history of international drug trade. Being a book that pays attention to a global problem, its outlook is also very much global, paying keen attention to all the major drug centers in the world. This book chronicles all the major events in the history of the international drug trade, all the key players, as well as the effects of international drug trade on the global political landscape between 1907 and 1954.

The entire concept of the book is well grounded, with the detailed chronology of the book partly attributed to the fact that both authors are historians. The authors analyze the development of the drug trade through Europe and Asia, which harbored the largest drug trade centers in the first half of the 20th Century. Providing mini-biographies of the key players every few pages allow the reader to keep track of the happenings and the individuals responsible.

However, there are a few drawbacks of this book. First, the mini-biographies also harbor the disadvantage of being cumbersome and digressive. Inasmuch as they present vital information on the key players, they also coerce the reader into digressing and shifting from the story, making the book a little difficult to follow since it requires very keen attention. Secondly, the placing of mini-biographies also poses a challenge to reading the book. Some characters are introduced too early, and a featured much later on in the book, when they have already lost their significance to the reader. This forces the reader to backpedal and highlight the character once more.

One of the key positives of the book is the ability of the authors to relate the pervasive inner-city drug wars today and the opium trade in China in the early part of the 20th Century. This correlation provides a clear insight into the state of many American cities today, as well as the dealings of many drug cartels today. This information actually remains the single-most important item in the book, since it highlights the parallels of both scenarios. In a similar light, it highlights the involvement of politics in the international drug trade, and the effects it has on political developments. All in all, it is a great read for any individual looking to understand the international drug trade.

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