FATAL DREAMS by Joanne Bario


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At 26, Joanne Tumolo was a ""slow-burning adolescent still waiting for her life to start"" when Sante (""Sandy"") Bario, an older, worldly Italian immigrant, swept her off her feet with his charm and mystery--he'd been an undercover agent, first for the IRS and then for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Overcoming her mid-70s liberal qualms about marrying a narc (""I wasn't looking for the morality of his life as much as the drama in it""), Jeanne went off with Sandy to Mexico, his next DEA assignment. There things began to go downhill: Jeanne felt trapped and unhappy as an Anglo; she saw little of Sandy, who was obsessed with his job, his informants, and the murky internal politics of the DEA. Bad turned to worse when Sandy became strange (""I'm not falling apart. I'm a little tense, all right"") and his hair started falling out from stresses he wouldn't explain beyond saying ""I haven't liked what's been happening here."" The Barios' marriage had all but broken up when Jeanne learned out of the blue that Sandy had been arrested in San Antonio, charged with accepting a bribe from an informant, Claude Picault, who doubled as a cocaine smuggler. Though he denied the bribery charge, Sandy privately admitted the mistake of turning a blind eye to Picault's sideline-smuggling in his eagerness to build, with Picault's help, the one big case that could make his career. Sandy Bario never got to trial: he died after mysterious seizures that began in jail (though tests were inconclusive, the doctors said, off-the-record, that it looked ""suspiciously like poison""). With ex-Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste, who helped crack the DEA's stonewalling in proceedings to have Sandy posthumously reinstated, Jeanne eventually discovered some of the facts of the Picault affair, including evidence suggesting that the DEA had known Picault was lying in his accusation of Sandy, but had chosen to protect Picault. But who killed Sandy Bario, assuming his death was homicide, remains unknown. Avoiding both mawkishness and self-martyrdom, Jeanne Bario tells a quietly compelling story, full of unanswered questions: ""Sandy was a man who had known too much, and I was a woman who hadn't known him at all.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1985
Publisher: Dial/Doubleday