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 Uncommonly trenchant account of the only known FBI agent to confess to murder. Mark Putnam's admission in June 1989 that he'd killed an informant stunned his Bureau supervisors. In previous two years on the job, Putnam had made a complex case against an interstate truck-theft ring under local police protection; busted a serial bank-robber; and amassed cocaine-trafficking evidence on a local politician. His first posting was to an obscure office in Pikeville, Kentucky, whose inhabitants included, as Sharkey (Deadly Greed, 1991, etc.) puts it, ``some of the most cantankerous and individualistic humans alive''--men and women who had to make shift with mining, drug-dealing, or welfare in order to survive. When Putnam revved up, the other Pikeville agents warned, ``Relax...this is a sleeper office nobody cares about.'' Undaunted, the young agent rode around with the local sheriff, meeting the people of the hills and hollers. Soon, a seam into local crime was opened by pretty Susan Smith, mother of two, occasional prostitute, and drug- user. Smith coveted the money that the FBI paid informants, and fingered for Putnam a bank robber hiding with her ex-husband. An intense two-year working relationship followed, with Smith romantically obsessed with the agent despite constant rebuffs. Finally, with his marriage faltering, Putnam succumbed--but he soon broke off the affair, prompting Smith to retaliate through a raging campaign of defamation. The woman finally consented to ``talk it over,'' and Putnam drove her to a deserted road where she attacked him--kicking, scratching, and biting. By the time the fight ended, Putnam had strangled Smith and rolled her body into a ravine. Telling no one, he attempted for a year to go about business as usual--but he lost weight, scratched his chest until blood ran, and became cadaverous. At last, like Raskolnikov, guilt and terror drove him to confess. Bristling with vivid characters, knuckle-biting revelations, and psychological wallop: a true-crime standout. (Photographs)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-79644-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993


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