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Dope Thief

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  245 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Ray and his best friend, Manny, close ever since they met in juvie almost twenty years ago, have a great scam going: With a couple of fake badges and some DEA windbreakers they found at a secondhand store, they pose as federal agents and rip off small-time drug dealers, taking their money and drugs and disappearing before anyone is the wiser. It’s the perfect sting: the de ...more
Hardcover, 291 pages
Published May 2009 by Minotaur Books (first published April 28th 2009)
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Average rating 3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  245 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Dec 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Tafoya’s tale of lowlife despair and redemption in the Philadelphia area is an impressive debut and a potential future classic (if not this book than the next one). His writing is very much in the tradition of Pelecanos, Lehane, and Price, an accolade he deserves rather than it merely being shorthand for East Coast grittiness. He is a strong writer who has taken many of their strengths to heart and used it to map out his own territory. This is in the story of a low rung participant in the Philly ...more
Jan 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read_2013, kindle, own
DOPE THIEF is essentially two tales – one of pure balls-to-the-wall, all out adrenaline noir, the other a quiet unassuming suburban-like cozy noir made for book lovers. Ray, one half of the sting duet features in both acts, firstly as a methodical hardened criminal accustomed to strong arm tactics, and lastly as a man trying to win his way back into society using money for good and making recompense for past discretions.

I love the concept of thieves imitating DEA agents to raid drug houses. The
Nov 18, 2009 rated it liked it
A good first novel. It hits the ground running and through the first two-thirds, it has a pace and story that is consistently strong. It just couldn't find the ending.

While I can see what the author was trying to do, the story ends at about pages 200 and the book ends closer to 300. Rather than tell two stories concurrently and retain the momentum, he tells two stories consecutively, the slower story second. It makes for an unsatisfying end, as the end of the book is what you are left with.

Jun 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009-reads
PROTAGONIST: Ray and Manny, ex cons
SETTING: Philadelphia

Ray and Manny first met when they were juveniles in prison almost twenty years earlier. They certainly learned a lot from that experience. Now they are running one of the best schemes ever, raiding drug dealers. Flashing fake badges and wearing surplus DEA jackets, Manny and Ray make quick work of most dealers. They just grab the drugs and cash with a minimum of violence. It's a very lucrative deal.

But it's only a ma
Robert Intriago
Aug 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-noir
I read the kindle version and sombody did a poor job of editing. I gave it a 4.5. The action is great and the story of redemption is very good.

I found the ending a bit too hollywood and the character of the supporting actors a bit lacking. I wish he would have done a little more development of Manny and Michelle. Overall a good start for a new novel. I plan to read the second one. Thanks Bob for the heads up.
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A nice gem - You really feel for the caracters in this one. It starts with a bang , the story is well crafted, and has a great ending. Very well written from start to finish. I don't give many 5 stars, but this one is worth it. ...more
J.F. Juzwik
Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This story opens by introducing us to two friends who make their living posing as DEA agents with the purpose of robbing dealers of their cash and their 'product'. They're very good at it too. But, sometimes, even Lady Luck has a way of saying 'f*$k you', and then even the best laid plans can go tragically up in smoke.

Okay. It's simple and predictable, right? You know exactly where this is going, right? Wrong. While it is true that these two do make a big mistake and steal from someone they shou
Sep 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
Crime Thriller

Two lowlifes who scout meth or crack sales houses then, posing as DEA agents raid the house, tie people up with plastic handcuffs, acting like law enforcement.

Most people selling or hanging out in these houses are also users, so they're not thinking rationally, and do exactly as told, while the "agents" confiscate all the drugs, guns and money. Rinse and repeat.

One wacked out meth user/seller who operates a meth lab turns out to have connections the two lowlifes know nothing about
Oct 09, 2009 rated it liked it
I couldn't go beyond a 3 star for this book regardless of its high rating here and on Amazon. The first part of the book was slow, then it became non-stop action which I found page turning, but then the last part of the book felt like an immense let down to me. I felt no closure from the main drama and the ending was somewhat disappointing to me. Had the book continued with the fast pace and had a climactic ending, who knows? This book has movie potential but the last 1/4 of the book would have ...more
May 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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. An excellent read. ...more
May 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing

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.
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, crime
If you like Dennis Lehane or George Pelecanos, you're going to love Dennis Tafoya. Fantastic characters and a plot that was simultaneously easy to follow and impossible to anticipate. Read this book! ...more
Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
My book, coming from St. Martin's Minotaur in May. Hope you enjoy it! ...more
Brett Wallach
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really compelling book about the drug trade and if of its perpetrators. Lots of great Philly area atmosphere. Docked a star for momentum killing flashbacks, and an overlong, rather silly denouement.
Clayton Lindemuth
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Dennis Tafoya’s Dope Thief presents a reviewer with problems: How to praise the book adequately, without giving away the fundamental surprise that makes it so worthwhile?

I don’t know how to do that, so I will limit myself to comments about Dope Thief that have more to do with the mechanics and art of it, and not the story. About the story I’ll limit my comments to these: you will not be disappointed, period. It is fast paced, lots of turns, surprises, relationships, danger, reality. Everything i
Patrick O'Neil
Jan 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book's premise is great. Dope fiends posing as cops ripping off dope dealers – excellent. I found it at my local Goodwill in the $1.99 hardback section and was totally stoked. The title: Dope Thief jumped out at me, and for the most part the book delivers. Dennis Tafoya's characters are vivid, and well formed. His plot is believable, intriguing, and at times gripping. Yet, unfortunately Tafoya gets a little caught up in trying to weave a back-story for his protagonist that really, if it had ...more
Apr 18, 2009 rated it liked it
I wish, for both my sake and the author's, that this book hadn't been published at nearly the same time as Beat the Reaper. The premise is fantastic, but the execution, for the majority of the book, I found lacking. I can't help but think that if I hadn't loved Pietro so much, I would have found Ray more endearing. ...more
Aug 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
I've been lucky with the latest books I've read, as they were all pretty good reads.
This book starts out with a great story line - 2 druggies rip off drug dealers, using some old DEA windbreakers and badges they picked up at a yard sale. It's a quick read (at least it was for me, but aren't they all?) and held my attention pretty much the entire way through.
I'm not saying it's the read of the year, but if you've got the time, it's a good one to read.
Nov 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Charisse by: Bob
OMG I have driven down all of the roads so far in this book - I know these areas so well, it's like coming home..... ummmm minus the meth labs in the farmhouses, of course!!!

4 1/2 stars

Wow - the first 2/3 of the book was a wild ride complete with selling drugs, doing drugs, shooting drug dealers and drug makers. The last 1/3 of the book was beautiful - heartfelt, warm as our "dope thief" tries to make his world right. This is a great first novel. Thank for the tip, Bob :)
May 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't stop reading this novel. It has been days since I finished it, and it still resonates with me. The out of control actions of the main characters, then their scramble to save themselves, and a beyond touching turn of events make this a highly recommended read. Add in great imagery, and action packed drama laced with guns and dope, and you've got the makings of greatness. Don't miss it! ...more
Sep 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Not at all what I expected. Especiallyfrom the blurbs about the book. Yes, it's very hard-boiled. Yes, it's a thrill packed ride. Yes, it's gritty and explosive and graphic. But it goes in such an unexpected way at the end - light and hope and redemption at the end of the long road. The more I think about this book, the more I like it. ...more
Jan 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: reality
Before reading this review, please know that I didn't have specific expectations of this book. I simply choose books off the shelf - I don't even read the jacket cover. So this book was OK. I finished reading it because I started it, but I wanted to put it down about halfway through. It didn't catch my attention. ...more
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: the author is on my friends list and performs a similar function in real life. But both these things came to pass after a mutual friend sent me a galley of "Dope Thief" to read. This is the real thing, hard core Noir the way many attempt and few achieve. ...more
Jul 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
while it took about half the book to achieve that "I can't put it down" feeling, it did finally come then. Pretty interesting summer reading about down-and-out guys who steal from small-time dealers. While at times dark and hopeless, redemption and hope reign. Well done. ...more
Chuck Barksdale
Apr 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books. I was fortunate to review it for a couple of years ago. Here's the link to that review:
Oct 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: thriller
I did not enjoy the first 200 pages of this book, which were about two losers ripping off drug dealers. Yet, the book turned interesting when one of the losers meets someone special, sees the light, and rejoins humanity in a robust way.
Joel Krause
May 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very interesting, have not read a book that follows this path. Well written and a very deep main character.... I thought this would be a slam, bam book, but the first half and the second half are both really different.
Hanna Howe
May 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Such a great book! Set in and around Doyelstown (where I live) but should be a pleasure for anyone. Suspensful, from the heart, and totally engrossing.
May 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009, top-ten-2009
hard-core crime just the way i like it. intelligent, realistic violence, no bullshit, no punches pulled. a great debut by tafoya. i'll be very anxious for his next. ...more
This debut crime novel was both gritty and seemingly realistic and had the added bonus of delving a bit deeper with the characters and the aftermath and effects of criminal behavior.
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Dennis Tafoya is the author of two crime novels, Dope Thief and The Wolves in Fairmount Park, both from St. Martin’s, as well as numerous short stories. He is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, and the Liars Club, a Philadelphia-area group of writers, producers and other creative types. He lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where he is currently at work ...more

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