A Shadow in the City
Charles Bowden
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Buy *A Shadow in the City: Confessions of an Undercover Drug Warrior* online

A Shadow in the City: Confessions of an Undercover Drug Warrior
Charles Bowden
320 pages
July 2005
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Joey O'Shay is an agent for the DEA, deep undercover, his home for the last twenty years the dark streets and shadowed alleys where drugs are for sale and life is cheap. His network of agents and informants bring the players close. O'Shay takes them in and does the deal. This is his world, the night: "The city does not sleep at this hour...the streets belong to the feral, to predators coursing its arteries for prey."

Caught up in a web of deceit that he skillfully manipulates, O'Shay has thus far avoided the bullet with his name on it, but the drug trade is nothing if not cynical and Joey has been too long behind the scenes, making deals and dodging death. The agent is weary, grown used to the game. He doggedly continues setting up the deals, meeting with the Mexicans and the Colombians, pushing the tons of cocaine, marijuana and heroin.

As the man behind the scenes, O'Shay builds an impenetrable web of associations. This book enters a netherworld, revealing the titillating details of drug trafficking, the connections, the cold business of exchanging money for product, where day is night and the player's sleep with evil. O'Shay lives his obsession, always planning, always in the deal, a long time survivor who is reaching some kind of crisis, inhabiting this cold life for too long.

His career began with busting small-time dealers but has progressed, along with his skills, to include the big Colombians who move enormous quantities of product. These are the deals that please the bureaucrats of the DEA and their bosses in Washington, the phone calls that can be traced to map out an entire network. O’Shay is never there for the take-down; he moves on to the next deal.

Edgy and brutal, O’Shay’s stream-of-consciousness hops from past to present, surrounded by a cast of shadowy characters: Cosima, his best confidential informant; Alvarez, a man ready to make a deal to save his own life after losing other people‘s money; Bobbie, part of the straight world but drawn to the darker one, close enough to O’Shay to read his mind; and Gloria, Cosima’s friend and South American connection, who makes the mistake of trusting O’Shay’s words of love and pays for it with her freedom.

This book is a psychological exposure of one man’s life as he goes about increasingly difficult undercover work for the DEA, but the real toll is on his mind, the cost of business eating away at his sense of self: “It is the self-questioning and needing to know more about the meaning of life...that frightens me. Almost a fear that when I stop pursuing them... I must pursue who I really am or what I became.”

© 2005 by Luan Gaines for curledup.com.

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