Kirkus Reviews QR Code
A SHADOW IN THE CITY by Charles Bowden

A SHADOW IN THE CITY

Confessions of an Undercover Drug Warrior

By Charles Bowden

Pub Date: July 6th, 2005
ISBN: 0-15-101183-4
Publisher: Harcourt

A drug agent under deep cover in an unnamed American city takes down high-level drug dealers and battles the demons within himself. A murky tale, in dense prose.

Joey O’Shay is a top federal officer whose very existence, apparently, is known only to a few in the government. O’Shay travels in the netherworld of international drug smugglers, high-end hotels, garish strip joints and secret negotiations. The story focuses on his attempt to pull off a multimillion-dollar heroin deal that originates in Colombia with two top drug dealers named Garcia and Irma. O’Shay is aided by Bobbi, a girlfriend dying of cancer who manages several hotels and provides lodging for O’Shay's drug-dealer clients. As he sets up the Colombians, he’s introduced to another beautiful dealer named Gloria. They’re attracted to each other, and O’Shay balks at the thought that he must “burn” her and send her to prison. But he does, in the end, without her ever knowing he was the cop who turned her in. O’Shay is haunted by his deception and torn by his forced allegiance to narcotics agents and prosecutors for whom he has little use. In many ways, he respects the dealers he takes down more than his police colleagues. Unfortunately, journalist Bowden (Down by the River: Drugs, Money, Murder and Family, 2002, etc.) serves up this story with few authentic details and an avalanche of clanking metaphors. His characters are shadowy and unconvincing, particularly O’Shay, who, we’re told, maintains a voodoo altar on his desk and a dead fly locked in his safe. Bowden may insist in the Preface that his story and characters are true, but his overwriting is tedious and lacks the gritty, street-smart feel one would expect from the account of a drug cop.

A blurry, near-unintelligible account that’s anything but compelling and does nothing to sharpen our feel for the drug war or those who wage it.