A SHADOW IN THE CITY: Confessions of an Undercover Drug Warrior

Charles Bowden, Author . Harcourt $24 (309p) ISBN 978-0-15-101183-4

Readers drawn into the brutal and corrupt realities of the war on drugs in Bowden's much-acclaimed Down by the River: Drugs, Money, Murder, and Family (2002) are likely to be disappointed by his latest foray into that world. Bowden begins with a brilliantly lyrical opening chapter, replete with vivid descriptions of the unnamed city where most of the action is set, bringing its sounds, smells and throbbing pulse to life. But the promise of that introduction to the narcotics agent referred to only by his pseudonym, Joey O'Shay, is unfulfilled; the evolution of a multimillion-dollar heroin deal is uncompelling and not always easy to follow, and O'Shay is ultimately unsympathetic. In fact, many will have difficulty parsing his frequent interior monologues to get a clear picture of which side of the law he's really on, and the numerous references to the themes of Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl's landmark Man's Search for Meaning in the drug agent's life hint at a psychological depth that's not fully developed. The hazards of undercover work and the strains on the agent's sanity and conscience have all been portrayed before in memoirs like that of the FBI's Mafia infiltrator Joe Pistone, and O'Shay's story feels more like an unaired episode of Miami Vice than something new and noteworthy. Agent, Anderson/Grinberg Literary Management. (July)

Reviewed on: 04/04/2005
Release date: 07/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 326 pages - 978-0-15-603253-7
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