PAPA'S GAME by Gregory Wallance

PAPA'S GAME

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In a book about the theft of 400 pounds of heroin and cocaine from the New York Police Property Clerk's office (including the drugs seized in the French Connection case), what do you expect? Who did it and how, for starters. Wallance doesn't really deliver on either count, and the unsatisfying result is a tedious history of a complex four-year investigation that never really pinned the crime on anyone. From the start, state and federal forces suspected Vincent Papa, a genteel hoodlum ensconced at the Atlanta federal penitentiary when the thefts were discovered. They also knew that the massive theft required help from ""inside""--police personnel must have been involved. The ""inside"" investigation focused on the New York City Police Special Investigating Unit, elite detectives handpicked to cover major narcotics traffic, and ""the most corrupt law enforcement unit in American history."" Both New York special prosecutor Maurice Nadjari and the federal government took a crack at the case, but never quite hit paydirt. It wasn't from want of trying, however, and several former police officers suspected of involvement in the thefts were ultimately convicted on tax-evasion charges. Papa and his lawyers fenced with the prosecutors for years; they sensed he was their man, but couldn't put all the pieces together themselves and so wanted to ""turn"" him. A classic stand-up guy, Papa never broke. But at Atlanta the rumor spread that he had, and he was stabbed to death in prison, a contract hit. The result of four years of enforcement effort: a few bad cops in jail on minor charges, Papa dead, and no answer to the most intriguing question--how did 400 pounds of drugs disappear from the New York City police narcotics safe area, ""a cage inside a cage inside a cage inside a cage?"" Lackluster.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1981
Publisher: Rawson, Wade--dist. by Atheneum