A debut memoir that relates the dangerous career of an undercover detective assigned to expose and apprehend members of mob-controlled unions.
Gudknecht, a veteran federal agent with 26 years of experience, vividly depicts his experience of infiltrating and apprehending members of a notorious crime family in this book. He worked with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Philadelphia Strike Force on Organized Crime, sleuthing his way through the shape-shifting criminal projects of the Philadelphia mob. The author tells of being discreetly commissioned by an “adjunct boss” for an assignment that begins with a drive to a city correctional facility, where an inmate smugly announces that Gudknecht’s boss has been targeted for a hit. Thankfully, the author later reveals that the prison visit was secretly an “interview and prequalification test” to determine his nerve and agility in a precarious situation. Then he’s thrown headfirst into an investigation into corrupt labor-union members. His job—which includes assembling an intelligence network of informants and witnesses—quickly becomes an all-consuming endeavor; he even looks into suspects in the disappearance of labor leader Jimmy Hoffa. Along the way, he assesses the moral conundrum of disclosing the hazardous nature of his assignment to his wife. Overall, this story is indeed a “roller-coaster ride” of research, subpoenas, and endangered informants, and Gudknecht makes the narrative uniquely personal with moments of witty humor among the tales of intrigue. For example, he shares his love of rock, jazz, and classical music and the work of philosopher Sun Tzu, whose principles guide him in times of uncertainty. He also details his involvement in other, earlier investigations, including one involving a prominent high-stakes betting operation, which helped him to develop the necessary toughness to take on the mob. In addition, he provides back stories of Hoffa and a villainous cast of mobsters and con men. The book’s choppy structure takes some getting used to, but it provides a breezy and thrilling take on dogged police work.
True-crime fans will particularly enjoy this busy, riveting remembrance, crafted with authenticity and intensity.