Pursuing Whitey Bulger, the Murderous Mob Chief the FBI Secretly Protected
by Thomas J. Foley and John Sedgwick
Reader Appeal: Teens & Adults
Genre: True Crime / Memoir
PopFam Rating: B-
On June 23, 2011, news reports announced the capture of James “Whitey” Bulger, a Boston mob boss who’d been on the run for sixteen years. He and his girlfriend had been living a quiet life in Santa Monica, CA, keeping to themselves and avoiding any actions that would draw attention.
As Bulger had been #1 on the FBIs Most Wanted list for many years, the news brought relief to many—especially Tom Foley, a retired colonel with the Massachusetts State Police. Foley had been tracking Bulger since 1984, working tirelessly to build a case against this mobster, only to find himself thwarted time and time again. Clearly someone was working against him…but who?
In Most Wanted, Foley recounts the long years of following Bulger and the frustrations of discovering that those who said they wanted Whitey Bulger behind bars—the FBI—were actually protecting and aiding him. Bulger had struck a deal with the government to serve as an informant in exchange for his freedom and protection from the law—including protection from Tom Foley.
From the title you’d think Most Wanted would be a thrilling true crime story. After all, Bulger was #1 on the Most Wanted list. But Foley is telling this story from his perspective as the detective, and that included a lot of sitting in tiny offices listening to wire taps, following suspect around for months on end, and other work that clearly was mind-numbingly boring. And he shares all those details.
Despite the hype and marketing, this book is actually Foley's story and his expose of FBI corruption, and not so much Bulger's story. As such, the book often bogs down in details that were certainly relevant to Foley's pursuit, but less relevant when the story is retold for an average reader. For instance, the mob world is a complex one, with many players constantly moving around in the power struggle—you almost need a chart to keep track of who’s who. It makes for slow and complicated reading.
The reality is that Most Wanted should have been a taught, gripping, insider's view of organized crime and governmental corruption...but it turns out to be a mostly mundane memoir written with the alacrity of a DMV report.
I found this one to be disappointing when compared to the hype, but youth and adult readers with an interest in law enforcement will no doubt find Most Wanted to be a fascinating read.
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