Neil Drumming
March 02, 2007 AT 05:00 AM EST

Mr. Untouchable

Current Status
In Season
Leroy Barnes, Tom Folsom
Nonfiction, Memoir

We gave it a B

Mr. Untouchable, the notorious heroin kingpin Leroy ”Nicky” Barnes’ tale, packs all the wallop of a Jay-Z album: juicy details of the drug trade wrapped up in breezy wit. And since his rise to power occurs mostly in pre-crack-era New York City, Barnes pushes the perception that building a ”continuing criminal enterprise” is not only lucrative but somewhat romantic. However, that mystique dissipates after a life sentence puts him behind bars for more than 20 years; he spends a lot of time seeking revenge on former cohorts. His final redemption — parole in 1998 for helping authorities make nearly 50 indictments — is less satisfying than the book’s main gist: Crime really doesn’t pay.

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