Reviews > Published on January 6th, 2015

Bookshots: 'Uncle Janice' by Matt Burgess

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Uncle Janice

Who wrote it?

Matt Burgess, author of Dog Fight: A Love Story.

A deep, detailed plunge into the ugly, unglamorous world of undercover narcs.

Plot in a box:

Janice Itwaru works for the NYPD as an “uncle,” an undercover narcotics agent. She’s making buys and hoping to work her way up to investigator before both her cover and her career are blown.

Invent a new title for this book:

It Is What It Is.

Read this if you liked:

The Wire, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Meet the book’s lead:

Janice Itwaru, a black/Indian woman from the projects, who became a cop to better her community and care for her ailing mother. She is clever, brave and strong, without ever coming across as a cliched superwoman. She sincerely cares about justice, and chafes under the institutional unfairness of the system that constantly tells her she isn’t good enough, but remains determined to do something about it.

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

Chloe Bennet, currently playing Skye on Agents of SHIELD, another badass female often frustrated by working with the establishment.

Setting: Would you want to live there?

No. And Uncle Janice is definitely not going to win the NYPD any new narco recruits.

What was you favorite sentence?

Three out of four economists claimed that the best way to solve the subprime mortgage crisis was to give more money to three out of four economists.

The Verdict:

Uncle Janice is an entertaining read, and a deep, detailed plunge into the ugly, unglamorous world of undercover narcs. The protagonist is a unique lens we don’t often get to look through in crime fiction. Janice has a great sense of humor and works with a building full of professional liars, so the dialogue is often great. At times the prose can ramble on, tempting one to skim past some passages, but the dialogue really helps ease the sense of frustrated hopelessness you get from reading about the horrific shit that goes on in the rest of her day. She risks her life on a daily basis trying to cozy up to drug dealers, working against every possible adversity: broken equipment, unreliable backup, gender discrimination, unrealistic quotas and restrictive rules about how to fill them, all in the most hostile workplace you can imagine. If you’re a fan of undercover fiction and fascinating female protagonists, Uncle Janice will not disappoint you.

About the author

BH Shepherd is a writer and a DJ from Texas. He graduated from Skidmore College in 2005 with degrees in English and Demonology after writing a thesis about Doctor Doom. A hardcore sci-fi geek, noir junkie and comic book prophet, BH Shepherd has spent a lot of time studying things that don’t exist.  He currently resides in Austin, where he is working on The Greatest Novel Ever.

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