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Dope Thief Hardcover – April 28, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (April 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031253115X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312531157
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,499,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ray, the 30-year-old protagonist of Tafoya's raw and redemptive debut, is a sure bet loser. His mother's dead, his abusive father in prison. His own lengthy record includes car theft, burglary and a two-year jail stint. For the past year, Ray and his buddy Manny have been robbing dope dealers and meth labs in the Philadelphia area. Ray and Manny hit small operations disguised as DEA agents, knowing their victims can't go to the cops and don't have the resources to come after them. Inevitably, a job goes bad, resulting in gunshots and death. With too much money at stake and serious bad guys on his trail, Ray realizes that the criminal phase of his life is over. Tafoya gradually reveals pieces of Ray's past while detailing his increasingly desperate efforts to rid himself of those dogging him and threatening anyone connected to him. A boy born into the life makes a wrenching attempt to change course or die trying in a first novel that marks Tafoya as a writer to watch. (May)
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From Booklist

Ray and Manny, flashing bogus badges and wearing DEA windbreakers purchased at a “flea market in Jersey,” take down small drug dealers in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It’s easy and lucrative, but they know it can’t last: “Everyone was high. Everyone was stupid. Everyone had guns.” Reality, in the form of New England bikers trying to muscle into the Philadelphia–New Jersey drug trade, rears its head quickly, and Ray and Manny are on the run. But that’s only half of this fine first novel. An abusive, criminal father and a number of jail stints beginning in high school seem to have doomed Ray to relive his father’s sordid life, but Ray is a bright man looking for a shot at redemption. When it comes, redemption is both unlikely and interesting. Tafoya is off to a promising start: Ray and a number of other characters are quirky and engaging. The locale of Bucks County, which ranges from city gritty to bucolic beauty, works well. The plotting is solid, and the action has a hard, violent edge that recalls Richard Price. --Thomas Gaughan

More About the Author

Dennis Tafoya is from Philadelphia and is the author of two novels, Dope Thief and The Wolves of Fairmount Park, as well as numerous short stories appearing in collections such as Philadelphia Noir, from Akashic Books. His third novel, The Poor Boy's Game, is coming from Minotaur Books in April, 2014.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 20 customer reviews
This is one outstanding read.
C. G. Bauer
It has a rare combination of taut action, gritty detail, and poignant heart that I found addictive.
H. Davidson
How on earth will he be able to write a comparable second book when his first one is this good?
the way I see it

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By the way I see it on November 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The other five-star reviewers have all made wonderful points in their assessment of this book, points that I would not have been able to make, which is the neat thing about allowing readers to write reviews (whether favorable or unfavorable). As for me, one of the most impressive aspects of Dope Thief is that I found myself truly caring about the characters, especially Ray, but also his doomed-to-the-lifestyle partner-in-crime, Manny, his step-mom, Theresa, and even his father, Bart. I can't tell you how many books I have read, even highly acclaimed ones, where I stopped halfway through as I came to realize that (1) I didn't care one bit about the characters, non even the main one(s) and (2) I didn't care how the book ended. I simply lost interest--or never had much interest to begin with--and stopped reading. That wasn't the case with Dope Thief.

Dope Thief is one that I read slowly and savored, because I sensed that I had something special in my hands. The dialogue is perfect, the plot flows smoothly, and the inner workings of Ray and his life story are wonderful. As I said, you really come to care about Ray, the hurts he has suffered, the poor choices he has made, and his attempt at redemption. And when he and Manny rip off the wrong meth-cookers/dealers, I can almost guarantee you that you will feel scared.

My only concern is that the title of the book may turn off potential readers, yet at the same time, it is a perfect title. Hopefully word of mouth will spread like wildfire so that other readers, even ones who don't typically read this genre or who may dismiss it because of the title, will be able to enjoy this wonderful book. Actually, I have one more concern, and that is for the author.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By parisreader on May 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I never thought I'd be recommending a book about low-life (as they describe themselves) criminals who are involved in one act of bloody violence after another, but this is a brilliant novel by a new writer who is starting at the top of the form. Yes, it's hard to put down -- not simply because of the brisk and visual and even poetic writing style, but also because it has characters delineated with great delicacy and honesty. I can't wait for Tafoya's next book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jon McGo on May 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Dope Thief is easily one of the best books I've read this year, a remarkable combination of action and dread, brains and heart, with everything I look for in great crime fiction, and more. While the "mystery" on the cover is certainly a misnomer, there is mystery within it, as well as a great plot and characters that live and breathe and suffer and change and stay with you long after you have put the book down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By mungo181 on August 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's not often that you come across a crime novel that manages to be funny, poignant, and well-written, but Dope Thief does all that and more. Ray and Manny are well-rounded characters that don't conform to stereotypes, and seem very much like people you might really know. It's great to read a thriller that doesn't involve high tech gadgets and government agencies, and Ray's struggle to make better choices will ring true to all readers. You don't need to be a criminal to ID with these characters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. G. Bauer on July 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is one outstanding read. Action scenes are mesmerizing and the plot is as hard-edged and purposeful as a gunshot at close range. The novel also stands as a literary piece: the reader experiences through the author's excellent narrative the impact that environment and circumstance can have in the making of a criminal and, ultimately, his struggle to stay alive while he attempts to un-make himself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ignacio f. on May 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This starts so well, it does everything you hope the 'literary thriller' genre will do, it's as good as Richard Lange's award-winning story in DEAD BOYS which is as good as this sort of thing -- these days the preferred route for young male authors -- ever gets. However, it does slow down some about 70% of the way through, but only out of the evident ambition to work out real life consequences of the hardboiled plot rather than take the route of those who are only referring to in their minds to movies they've seen in which a climactic shootout wraps everything up.

Tafoya is more ambitious than say Charlie Huston or Duane Swierczynski, whose novels tend to bleed into each other and share that trashy quality summed up by "I couldn't put it down -- because I never wanted to pick it up again!" Tafoya's better and hopefully he'll develop; certainly I will buy anything he writes until and unless he repeatedly lets me down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Simmons on May 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Don't be fooled by the words "A Mystery" on the front cover, or the adjectives "noir" and "fast-paced" on the back. This is as tender and subtle a portrait of a criminal mind I've ever seen. Effortlessly beautiful and heartfelt, even as the bullets fly and the wounds open. If In Cold Blood was set in a meth lab, and written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, you'd have DopeThief.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on May 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Ray and Manny met as tweeners at a juvenile detention center. They became pals and remain so two decades later in spite of both spending time in prison. Each has a long rap sheet that is loaded with burglaries.

The pair managed to come up with DEA badges and DEA windbreakers. For the past year in Philadelphia they have raided two bit illegal drug operations pretending to be Federal agents; they especially like hitting meth labs. Their scheme is brilliant as those they rob from cannot call the cops or afford to hunt them down. However, they make a big error when they accidentally steal from someone holding a few hundred grand. They know he and his cohorts are coming after them as Ray concludes their crime spree is over and wants out if he survives, but doubts Manny or the mark chasing them will allow him to just leave alive.

In many ways this character study focuses on the nurturing vs. naturing debate as Ray's father insists he cannot overcome generations of criminal activity that flows in his blood while a woman he likes insists he can if he truly wants to. The story line is packed with plenty of action, but is more a character study than a crime tale as the audience sees deeply what makes Ray tick especially while he looks back at his past and considers his future while in the hospital. Dennis Tafoya provides a fascinating glimpse at a young man whose life has been criminal and whose future looks short.

Harriet Klausner
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