Audio Show review: The Making of a Massacre: Caught in the Crossfire of the Drug War

Audio Show review The Making of a Massacre audiobook review

What is this about?: A true crime Audible show, based on an investigative report done by a ProPublica journalist into an operation by the US and Mexican governments that cost a town everything.


[Contains sensitive content]

The true story of a cartel’s deadly assault on a Mexican town near the Texas border – and the American drug operation that sparked it.

On a warm evening in a small Mexican border town, men and women started disappearing. Local officials were warned to stay away and when it was all done, up to 200 people were gone. The Making of a Massacre is a five-part true-story detailing how well-intentioned efforts to curtail the drug trade by the US and Mexican governments had devastating effects.

Led by ProPublica’s award-winning journalist Ginger Thompson and featuring true-to-life performances by notable actors Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, Alana del la Garza, Clifton Collins Jr. and Snow Tha Product, listeners will hear how a town was caught in the crossfire of the drug war.

Stars: 3.5/5

I didn’t know what to expect when I started listening to this, and I confess, a harder one to review accurately.

Ok, so let’s start at the beginning

This Audible show is a collection of five chapters, packed into a little over two hours. It’s based on an investigation by Ginger Thompson, who is a journalist for ProPublica, who did an indepth investigation into what happened in Allende.

This is her original story for Propublica. 

From the title of the article, you can see firmly what the results of her investigation were, but within the Audible show, the focus is less on the machinations and politics of the DEA and more on the people – the families who had to live in that town, who saw their way of life change when the Zetas moved in, and whose family members were murdered in a horrific way.

Thompson introduces you to the town, talking to people about what life was before and after the Zetas moved in. There are answers in Mexican, with actors coming in and giving voice to these people in English. It’s intimate, and it’s goes a long way to placing you there in the town, feeling the terror of the people but also the reality of life in the town with low incomes.

When story moves to the DEA, listeners are introduced to the crisp, sharp tones of agents who were determined to end this cartel,  and succeeded in getting some solid information before it all went wrong – before they trusted the wrong people with the information, and the people in the town suffered for it. The cartels knew everything, and when you hear how easily they found out about the leak, it’ll give you an indication of how much the cartels controlled law enforcement.

Last, the story also covers the violence endured by the town during the night the cartels sought their vengeance for the leak within their ranks. At the original article, you’ll see photos of the homes that were destroyed as the cartel moved through the town that night, seeking anyone associated with the source of the leak to the DEA.

Survivors are part of this story too —  those who are still grieving for their loved ones, and have no answers save the sanitised, politically savvy ones from the authorities.

It’s confronting listening to these experiences like this for there’s no fluff here, nothing but the unrelenting truth of what Allende and its people endured.


  • Daniela Ark says:

    wow this is such an interesting topic! Because drug traffic is such a sad reality here in the US and in Mexico! I think it is great the families and people affected received a lot of attention in this book! I would find the part where the DEA investigation went wrong very interesting too since evidently it affected people is such a terrible way! Cartels have access to incredible resources!

    Great review Veruska!

    • Verushka says:

      Thanks Daniela. This was short and far more intense than I thought. I was impressed with how this was put together from an article and it made you feel such empathy for the people of the town.

  • Jen Mullen says:

    The damage that is done by the cartels is devastating. The drug trade is like a hydra, cut off one head and another grows back, and nothing the DEA has tried has put a stop to the drug trade. We can’t even solve the homegrown opioid epidemic.

    • Verushka says:

      I think that outside the US, we don’t have a real idea of how extensive the problem is, and how far the cartels reach. That part was illuminating in this.

  • Kelly says:

    I’m a fiend for underworld, cartel and general crime family narratives but this sounds incredibly confronting, especially on audio. I can imagine it’s a little eerie to listen to. I vaguely remember seeing a documentary on it not too long ago, how the disappearances they believe were sparked by the US and the people taken were though to be informers I think. Gosh it’s so far removed from our world isn’t it. I can imagine how confronting this one would be for family members to relive the tragic circumstances. Wonderful review Verushka darling, really enjoyed it <3

    • Verushka says:

      It’s very far removed from us over here, so to read in the other comments how extensive the problem is, is eye-opening. there’s a journalist’s dispassion to this — even as she narrates this — but like any good journalist can she makes you empathise with the families. I think you might enjoy this Kelly — it’s very short as well.

  • Wow, this does sound like something that would be hard to review. Such an interesting and relevant topic though, considering how many people’s lives are impacted by what these cartels do. .

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