Picks and Pans Review: Once Through the Heart

updated 11/02/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/02/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Ralph Blumenthal

While New York City detective Pat DeGregorio was out hunting Mafia heroin traffickers, at home in the suburbs his 16-year-old daughter, Mary Anne, was dealing drugs. His brother knew; his second wife, also a detective, suspected. But DeGregorio, who'd already lost Mary Anne's mother to alcoholism and his young son to heart disease, just couldn't face the facts. Until one hot summer afternoon he surprised a crowd of teens clustered around a suspicious-looking van and caught his daughter literally holding the bag.

What brought the DeGregorios to this dramatic turning point, and where they went from there, forms the heart of the moving, true story told by Blumenthal, an investigative crime reporter for The New York Times. With fly-on-the-wall intimacy, we watch the family's slow disintegration, then their painful struggle toward recovery.

Along the way, Blumenthal splices in vivid scenes from DeGregorio's undercover penetration of a Sicilian-based drug ring. Fascinating in their own right, the wiseguy interludes—with their themes of family and betrayal—provide a counterpoint that enhances the central story. At one moment, when we know what Mary Anne's up to but her father still doesn't, DeGregorio sits listening to a heroin connection complaining about her druggie daughter. "You don't know these kids," the woman says, more accurately than she or he ever suspects. "They'll do anything." (Simon & Schuster, $22)

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