Bones
A cinematic true-crime story set at the Mexican-American border about two very different brothers whose lives intertwine in an FBI drug investigation and a champion race horse.Jose Trevino was raised in Nuevo Laredo on the Mexican side of the border, one of thirteen children born to a hard-working ranchhand. He grew up loving the sprawling countryside and most of all the tough, fast quarter horses, but in search of opportunity he crossed the border into Dallas to work as a bricklayer. As Jose built a humble business, his older brother Miguel had ascended to the top of the infamously bloody Zeta cartel and was said to have burned rivals alive, eaten victims’ hearts, and launched grenades at the US Consulate. But Jose, married with kids and now a US citizen, kept his nose clean.Then one day Jose showed up at a quarter horse auction and bid close to a million dollars for one horse—the largest amount ever paid at auction. The bricklayer quickly became a major player in the quarter horse racing scene that thrived on both sides of the border and caught the attention of rookie FBI agent Scott Lawson, who was himself raised on a horse ranch. He enlisted Tyler Graham, a young American rancher who was breeding Trevino’s champion horse—nicknamed Huesos, or Bones—to infiltrate what was revealing itself to be a major drug laundering operation, with the ultimate goal of capturing the notorious Miguel Trevino.The powerful horse may drive the narrative but Bones goes deeper, shedding light on the drug war, the perilous lives of American ranchers, the Sisyphean work of drug cops, and how greed and fear mingle with race, class, and violence along the vast Southwest border region. At its heart, this riveting crime drama, set against the high-stakes world of horseracing, is an intimate story about two brothers, family loyalty, and the tragic costs of a failed drug war.

Bones Details

TitleBones
Author
ReleaseJan 23rd, 2018
PublisherPenguin Random House
ISBN-139780812989601
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Crime, True Crime, Mystery, Biography

Bones Review

  • Tonstant Weader
    January 1, 1970
    Bones: Brothers, Horses, Cartels, and the Borderland Dream is a true crime story examining the infiltration of quarter-horse racing by drug cartels seeking to launder money through the story of José Treviño Morales, brother to the infamous Miguel Treviño Morales (40) who led the Zetas and Scott Lawson, the rookie FBI agent who brought down some of the money launderers.The Zetas are a notorious Mexican drug cartel of extraordinary violence and inhumanity. One cartel leader was sentenced last mont Bones: Brothers, Horses, Cartels, and the Borderland Dream is a true crime story examining the infiltration of quarter-horse racing by drug cartels seeking to launder money through the story of José Treviño Morales, brother to the infamous Miguel Treviño Morales (40) who led the Zetas and Scott Lawson, the rookie FBI agent who brought down some of the money launderers.The Zetas are a notorious Mexican drug cartel of extraordinary violence and inhumanity. One cartel leader was sentenced last month for chopping a six-year-old girl up in front of her parents, removing and burning her limbs while she was still alive. Unfortunately, since 40 was arrested in a separate operation, violence has only increased and the Zetas have notched more than 12,500 murders in just the first six months of 2017.This makes this book in turns fascinating and infuriating. Let’s consider José Treviño Morales. For most of his life, he worked as a brick layer. His wife worked at Ernst & Young. They did okay, never getting ahead, but supporting their family and children. Because his brother was this infamous drug lord, José was constantly harassed by police, ICE, and the DEA. If he crossed the border, even walking, carrying nothing, they made him sit for hours as though he were a drug mule and interrogated about his family. When his brother committed some atrocity, his house would be searched. Law enforcement harassed him as though he were criminal even though he a brick layer and had no involvement whatsoever in his brother’s criminality.However, that changed when he suddenly bought a horse and got involved in horse-racing. Buying, breeding, and racing horses requires money and a lot of money churned through his business. It didn’t seem to enrich him personally, and he worked hard at it, spreading the manure, feeding the horses, and doing what a horse rancher would do…but of course, the financing was all from his brother and eventually, it all came falling down when the FBI swooped in and charged him with money laundering.The story is interesting, though the most pressing question is never answered. Unfortunately, Joe Tone never interviewed José so he could not answer why, after a lifetime of law-abiding hard work, did he, at last, succumb to temptation? I am sure he comforted himself by saying he was not involved in the drugs – and he was not – but money laundering enables the cartel. So what made him switch? Was it his daughter coming of age for college and marriage? It does not seem so. Perhaps it was being treated by a criminal despite his years of hard work. After all, if law enforcement is going to search his home, interrogate him, hang around outside his house, and harass him while he does nothing, why shouldn’t he make some money? We never find out what the straw was that broke his law-abiding back.Joe Tone notes that implicit bias was involved in many of the FBI decisions but still seems very admiring of Lawson. Lawson decided to approach the white guy who was part of the horse business because he didn’t “act like a boss.” This guy, Tyler Graham, makes out like a bandit. He gets to keep all the laundered money that comes his way and the horses bred by Tempting Dash, the winning horse whose victories precipitated José’s involvement. This was some private judgment Lawson made that seems pretty arbitrary. Most descriptions of José note that he was humble, not prideful. But Lawson thought he acted “like a boss.” Did he have some expectation of servility that all the Latinos offended?There were some very questionable indictments, like the builder brother of one of the conspirators who never should have been indicted, and luckily was found not guilty. Meanwhile, none of the white conspirators were indicted. Bank of America held several accounts that laundered millions but was not accused. Why not? Actively assisting the investigation after the fact is money laundering and getting away with it. Tone does not discuss Bank of America's role in the money laundering in his book which I think is a serious oversight, but when the FBI decided to let them assist, it might be legally difficult to press the point. Let us not forget that HSBC laundered billions of dollars and paid a fine totaling five weeks income. I thought the story was interesting but was not terribly impressed by law enforcement. I would be happy to see the cartels out of horse-racing, but who believes that taking down one rancher took the cartels out of the industry. The auction houses knowingly sold to and even carried credit for cartel buyers, does anyone believe that stopped when not one of them was touched? The racing industry turned a blind eye to cartel infiltration because it inflated prices and brought in shipments of cash. None of them were held accountable.This operation took down one small cog in a giant cartel, one that was relatively insignificant, but symbolically important. He was the brother of the kingpin and so his conviction was a win, but what a misplaced set of priorities. The cartels could not operate without banks colluding, without structured money transfers that banks ignored. In all, there was one bank that seemed alert to and unwilling to accommodate the cartel, forcing one of the conspirators to close his account, but the rest were happy to handle the money. They were not indicted. If the FBI wants to really stop money laundering, it needs to start indicting bankers. When we see bankers in perp walks, we will know that the government is serious about ending cartels.And of course, the Zetas are worse than ever…and nothing done in interdiction will ever stop the violence. There is money to be made and American focus on prohibition over treatment continues to incentivize criminal cartels. Prohibition made the American mafia in the 20s and is made the cartels of today. Unfortunately, this book has no answers. It seems the cartels will continue to terrorize the border and the people of Mexico and American banks will continue to profit with impunity. As to horse-racing? Who knows? Since none of the people who profited the most from cartel involvement were punished, do they have an incentive to keep the cartels out now? Were there any reforms in how horses were auctioned and how payment was made? None are mentioned in the book, so it seems that another operation could step right in.Joe Tone tells a good story. He raises many questions, though, and answers few. He notes the racial disparities in how the FBI approached the Latino and white participants in the money laundering, but it never seems to impinge on his assessment of Lawson or Graham. Really, Graham made out like a bandit, didn’t he? It seems he made the correct assessment he could have his money laundering cake and eat it, too. It would have been nice if Tone had noted who some of the unindicted co-conspirators in the sales barns and banks of America were, the people who profited with impunity because there is where the battle needs to go. In a way, it seems as though Tone pulled his punches the same way the FBI did.I received a copy of Bones: Brothers, Horses, Cartels, and the Borderland Dream through a Shelf Awareness promotional drawing.Bones: Brothers, Horses, Cartels, and the Borderland Dream at Penguin Random HouseJoe Tone author site“The Rookie and the Zetas” – original article about this storyhttps://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre...
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  • Schuyler Wallace
    January 1, 1970
    Joe Tone has taken three subjects I like a lot, the Mexican drug wars, cops, and racehorses, and written an in-depth true-life study of their intricacies. In “Bones: Brothers, Horses, Cartels, and the Borderland Dream,” he has researched the tangle of their being and tries to explain it to his readers. Good luck with that. In spite of the threat of personal harm for daring such a thing, Tone has tackled a toxic pudding of evil subterfuge that has defied all attempts at getting it together in a b Joe Tone has taken three subjects I like a lot, the Mexican drug wars, cops, and racehorses, and written an in-depth true-life study of their intricacies. In “Bones: Brothers, Horses, Cartels, and the Borderland Dream,” he has researched the tangle of their being and tries to explain it to his readers. Good luck with that. In spite of the threat of personal harm for daring such a thing, Tone has tackled a toxic pudding of evil subterfuge that has defied all attempts at getting it together in a bowl.The drug cartels of Mexico, Central and South America amass huge amounts of money; so much that stashing it all in safe places is a daunting task. “Bones” lays out one such method, laundering some of the receipts in the equally hard to follow industry of horse racing. Who knows about the rest of it? I picture moldy bags of paper profits secreted in tumbledown barns all over the border The author tells of a group of Mexican brothers with differing views of life’s struggles. One works for thirty years as a bricklayer in Texas, barely surviving, and initially rejects the life of a drug smuggler. Another adopts a life among the drug dealers, eventually rising in stature to become a vicious drug lord. Another ultimately rises to the number two position. Others drift in and out of the shadows but over time get caught up in the intoxication of possessing great wealth. Even the bricklayer, a picture of virtue for so many years, cannot stay away from the piles of money, riches he went without for so long.Outsiders enter the picture, of all ethnic groups, lured by the call of money. There are many jobs in the business of illegal drugs, particularly in cartels as large as Los Zetas, and many characters who want a piece of the action. Tone goes into the depths of the activity and does his best to keep it straight. His research is tremendous. His tracking of the activities of these untouchables is relentless. His ability to create suspense is amazing, making the story a thrilling expose.The author has even exposed the territorial battles between the governmental agencies charged with keeping these illegal activities in check. That’s not a pretty situation. Combining the complicated criminal acts with the confusion and complexity of law enforcement indicates a battle that will long be with us. The ultimate victims are everywhere.
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  • Daniel
    January 1, 1970
    I have to admit, this book surprised the heck out of me. I got it as an ARC but didn't jump right into it. I thought it was going to over-simplify the situation on the US/Mexico border and the complexities of the drug war and immigration between the two nations the way that most media narratives in this country tend to do. What a surprise to find that this author really has a boots-on-the-ground understanding of Mexico's complicated underworld and the US demand for drugs that drives so much of i I have to admit, this book surprised the heck out of me. I got it as an ARC but didn't jump right into it. I thought it was going to over-simplify the situation on the US/Mexico border and the complexities of the drug war and immigration between the two nations the way that most media narratives in this country tend to do. What a surprise to find that this author really has a boots-on-the-ground understanding of Mexico's complicated underworld and the US demand for drugs that drives so much of it. The other thing that struck me about this book is the way that it was written. It is ALL OVER THE PLACE which bothered me at first. The author switches voices and styles and perspectives literally chapter to chapter. Sometimes, he's educating the reader in a matter-of-fact style of a nature documentary, laying out the circumstances that make the border with Mexico such a unique place. In another chapter he does something similar laying out a brief history of quarter-horse racing in America and what the landscape of the sports looks like today. All this is done while intertwining these kinds of chapters with the narrative of his main characters.Without giving much away, the plot revolves around a Mexican cartel trafficker who gets the idea to launder some of his money for his relatives in the US by participating in legal (but barely regulated) world of horse racing, with the intent of funneling his winnings which the DEA can't touch back to his loved ones. It's an interesting premise and it works precisely because he has done his homework on his subjects and the whole thing seems eminently believable. I recommend this book if you have any interest in either border politics, the drug war/drug trade with Mexico or if you have any interest in horse racing. This is a quick read that doesn't disappoint or ever talk down to the reader, the chapters are fast-moving and engrossing. Overall, this is just a highly enjoyable book that came out of nowhere for me to become one of the coolest books I have read this year.
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  • RMazin
    January 1, 1970
    The Trevino brothers, Jose and Miguel, were raised in a large family in Nuevo Laredo. Jose migrated to the American side in pursuit of a dream – opportunity and economic independence. He became a bricklayer and worked his way up to afford a modest living for himself and his family. It may be said that Miguel, who stayed on the Mexican side, also wanted opportunity and economic independence. But he pursued his dreams by entering and excelling in the deadly world of the Zetas and the cartels. The The Trevino brothers, Jose and Miguel, were raised in a large family in Nuevo Laredo. Jose migrated to the American side in pursuit of a dream – opportunity and economic independence. He became a bricklayer and worked his way up to afford a modest living for himself and his family. It may be said that Miguel, who stayed on the Mexican side, also wanted opportunity and economic independence. But he pursued his dreams by entering and excelling in the deadly world of the Zetas and the cartels. The two brothers co-existed but saw little of each other. But soon they would be held within the same circle – the world of quarter horse racing.Miguel needed an outlet to launder his money. Both Jose and he had always had a love of the quarter horse sport. What better way for both to enter that world? Jose would do the purchasing and “run” the horses on the American side, Miguel would provide the muscle, expertise and money to achieve their goals. But the sudden entry of a modest bricklayer into the quarter horse arena did not go unnoticed. Large sums of money exchanged hands, many horses were bought, trained and bred. An FBI agent was watching and seeking how to link the brothers together so they could bring down the enabling Miguel with the novice Jose. Scott Lawson was the rookie FBI agent assigned to this Southwestern locale. He saw an opportunity to make the case through following the money, the communications, and the quarter horse circuits. Joe Tone takes the reader to the border world where money, drugs and quarter horse racing intercept. Many are involved but justice does not always bring a resolution where all the guilty are punished in accordance to their involvement. Race, class and culture are explored within this tableau of violence and a seemingly pastoral but lucrative horse racing setting.Recommended for those seeking a better understanding of how our drug wars are waged, lost or won on the border. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book which brings a deeper awareness to so many issues.
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  • Jo
    January 1, 1970
    ... With FBI Agent Scott Lawson as Eliot Ness, Miguel Trevino (aka Cuarenta aka Forty) as Al Capone, and money laundering instead of tax evasion.This meticulously researched book is an illuminating read. Each chapter revealed something new and fascinating, both about Los Zetas and American quarter horse racing. I picked it up a couple of times, reading a few chapters each time, because there's such a wealth of information that it was hard to assimilate it all. This is one to keep on your shelf a ... With FBI Agent Scott Lawson as Eliot Ness, Miguel Trevino (aka Cuarenta aka Forty) as Al Capone, and money laundering instead of tax evasion.This meticulously researched book is an illuminating read. Each chapter revealed something new and fascinating, both about Los Zetas and American quarter horse racing. I picked it up a couple of times, reading a few chapters each time, because there's such a wealth of information that it was hard to assimilate it all. This is one to keep on your shelf and refer to when you need it. Kudos to Mr. Tone.Note: Every now and then, there was an especially evocative phrase. Scott Lawson as "Big Bird in a cowboy hat" I'm not going to forget anytime soon. ;)FYI: Bones, for which the book was titled, was the nickname of Tempting Dash, Forty's most prized stallion - the horse that finally lured his brother Jose into quarter horse racing, laundering millions in drug profits, and helping the Zetas infiltrate American horse-racing; brought a number of people under the feds' microscope; and turned Tyler into an invaluable informant.*ARC via netgalley*
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  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    Jose Trevino Morales, a bricklayer in Texas, worked hard all his life to distance himself from his brother’s drug cartel. He could not resist the opportunity to get into quarter horse racing. Reporter Joe tone traces Jose’s life and the impact Mexican drug cartels has on the champion quarter horse breeding and money laundering in Texas. He describes how drug money was used to infiltrate the horse racing industry, the people involved, and the government’s efforts to bring the accused to trial. Us Jose Trevino Morales, a bricklayer in Texas, worked hard all his life to distance himself from his brother’s drug cartel. He could not resist the opportunity to get into quarter horse racing. Reporter Joe tone traces Jose’s life and the impact Mexican drug cartels has on the champion quarter horse breeding and money laundering in Texas. He describes how drug money was used to infiltrate the horse racing industry, the people involved, and the government’s efforts to bring the accused to trial. Using a novel format, make it interesting to read. Although Tone mentions his sources, the book lacks the footnote or endnotes. His acknowledged his attempts to interview Jose and/or his family failed leaving some questions unanswered. The reporting does raise questions about how law enforcement chooses and uses informants.Goodreads Giveaway randomly chose me to receive this book. Although encouraged, I was under no obligation to write a review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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  • Ann
    January 1, 1970
    Superior story-telling of this world about which I know little. Joe Tone is able to describe the Quarter House racing scene as well as the Mexican crime family in a way I could understand. There is so much killing and violence in this book, yet I didn't drown in it as the author continually put the context around it.I appreciate that Joe Tone does not take the FBI agent's story at face value and begins to probe why it is the FBI and the Justice Department do not charge the white, rich people in Superior story-telling of this world about which I know little. Joe Tone is able to describe the Quarter House racing scene as well as the Mexican crime family in a way I could understand. There is so much killing and violence in this book, yet I didn't drown in it as the author continually put the context around it.I appreciate that Joe Tone does not take the FBI agent's story at face value and begins to probe why it is the FBI and the Justice Department do not charge the white, rich people in the story.
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  • Risa
    January 1, 1970
    Compelling and well written. Amazing that much of this complicated scheme took place in my own North Texas backyard, and most of us (myself included) had no idea it was happening! Definitely worth a read.
  • Linda Webb
    January 1, 1970
    I have found this book to be very good. I love that I had the honor of getting a prerelease copy and plan on getting a release copy too
  • Nile
    January 1, 1970
    An excellent book!Covers many issues of our times!Exceptionally written!Thanks!
  • Jerry
    January 1, 1970
    intertwined lives of quarter horse men, cartels, and FBI. Non-fiction but reads like a good novel
  • Sharon
    January 1, 1970
    Riveting, cinematic, and thought-provoking.
  • Harry
    January 1, 1970
    A pager turner work of non-fiction. Tone provides an in-depth but never boring look into the world of Quarter Horse racing and narco money laundering.
  • Ruth Leach-Stevens
    January 1, 1970
    I just finished Bones, I really enjoyed it. Quite impressive for a first book.I learned more than I thought I cared to know about Quarter Horse racing, I might have to go to a race now. I loved the storytelling, I got caught up in the personal stories and the drama and I enjoyed the viewpoint which was subtle but present. The ending is made for the movies
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