Kim Wozencraft's third novel, The Catch, explores the murky, uncertain terrain of the drug underworld and the people who make it run, and does it very well indeed. It's a subject the author knows intimately--she once worked as an undercover narcotics agent before succumbing to addiction and ultimately serving a drug-related prison sentence. With its population of drug-smuggling cowboys, brutal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents, and pragmatic, briskly businesslike dealers, The Catch is a compelling peek inside a normally invisible empire.
It is also the story of a woman trapped at the center of an intricate and successful web she helped weave. In her younger days, Annie Trowbridge learned that helping her husband Kurt smuggle marijuana into the United States from all over the world was exhilarating and lucrative. As the couple begins to settle down, buying a house and starting a family, Annie realizes exactly how much she stands to lose if Kurt gets busted. As Annie urges and ultimately begs him to give up the smuggling biz and go legit, it becomes clear he is addicted. Not to the drugs per se--he doesn't touch "the product"--but to the adrenaline high of trafficking. Like every well-intentioned addict still jonesing for a fix, he promises her again and again he will quit after just one more score.
Kurt's years of risky business finally catch up with him when a plane full of marijuana crashes and the DEA quickly traces it to him. Kurt and Annie find their once-comfortable lifestyle reduced to two stark options: Should they take off and live as a family of fugitives or stay and face a prison sentence?
Surprisingly the most compelling attractions of The Catch are not the thrill-a-minute descriptions of Kurt's smuggling activities and dramatic near-misses with The Man. Rather, Wozencraft's skill at portraying the psychology of addiction provides the novel's center and strength. Kurt is not the only one with an addiction: DEA agent Joe Kessler has an obsessive need to bust Kurt, no matter the method. But the most moving character is Annie, who feels utterly alone even as she is caught in the middle, trying to protect both her sons and her on-the-lam husband while becoming increasingly attracted to the persistent, considerate Kessler. The Catch is a compelling examination of love, betrayal, and redemption set smack in the middle of the modern morality play of the War on Drugs.