Uncle Janice

Matt Burgess. Doubleday, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-53680-6
The uncle of the title of this gripping, well-written book set on the mean streets of contemporary Queens is an undercover narcotics officer in the NYPD. “Uncle” Janice Itwaru, a New Yorker of Guyanese descent, poses as a drug addict to make “buys” of crack and other controlled substances; she is shadowed by a “ghost,” a fellow officer who makes the arrests. Burgess has crafted an urban picaresque, though Itwaru’s undercover identity and activities are potentially dangerous. But the relatively low level of narrative momentum (this is not a genre novel) is well compensated for by the rich, vibrant portrait of Queens’s vast underclass—from the suffering addicts and smalltime dealers to the cops who are more concerned with doing their job, surviving the tedium and drudgery, and moving their way up the NYPD food chain than making the streets safer from the scourge of drugs. Burgess (Dogfight, a Love Story) has a finely honed eye and a gift for rendering street-smart dialogue that is both credible and comic; he fully realizes Itwaru’s world and makes the reader understand just how futile most of the skirmishes in the war on drugs really are. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/13/2014
Release date: 01/06/2015
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 494 pages - 978-1-4104-7819-1
Compact Disc - 1 pages - 978-1-62231-608-3
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-345-80344-3
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