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The Journal Gazette

  • This cover image released by Crown shows "Chasing Phil: The Adventures of Two Undercover Agents with the World's Most Charming Con Man," by David Howard. (Crown via AP)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 1:00 am

Cornering of con man captivating

Reviewed By CHRISTINA LEDBETTER | Associated Press

In 1977, agents Jim Wedick and Jack Brennan slipped on recording devices, touted themselves as swindlers in the making and shook hands with Phil Kitzer. It was the FBI's first wire-wearing undercover mission.

Kitzer, responsible for bamboozling victims across the globe, took to his new friends quickly, eager to share the tricks of his trade.

While much of author David Howard's work surrounds Wedick and Brennan's relationship with their target, he also unpacks the effect of this case on the FBI. It played a pivotal role in expanding the FBI's focus to include white-collar crime.

Howard sticks squarely to the facts, providing more of an overview of events in lieu of textured scenes. This may leave readers feeling disconnected. Also, the complexity of the scams Kitzer orchestrated makes for a few discombobulating moments.

The decisions Wedick and Brennan made prove an intriguing facet of the story, as does the peek into organized crime.