I don’t read a lot of true crime books. This is mainly because I’m not really all that interested in the lives of criminals and that’s usually what those books are about. What interests me are the people who deal with criminals on a daily basis. The people who brush against that world and manage to retain their values and their sense of self fascinate me. I found out about Betrayal, Murder And Greed because I’m friends with the son of one of the authors and he mentioned it. I read it because it’s about a bail bond agent, a bounty hunter, and their careers in Tacoma. I’m writing this review of it because you should read it too.
Unless you’ve been bailed or bailed someone out of jail, you probably don’t know much about the bail bonds business or how things work in that industry. And unless you’ve skipped bail, your only experience with a bounty hunter is likely watching Dog, The Bounty Hunter. Of course watching Dog and thinking you know what it’s like to be a bounty hunter is like watching Cops and thinking you know what’s involved in being a cop. Betrayal, Murder And Greed isn’t interested in making things more exciting than they are or glamorizing anything. It’s too busy telling you stories of what this sort of life is like.
The book is split into three sections. First you hear Pam Phree’s story of how she got started in the bail bonds business and how it went from being just a job to something she loves. Then you hear Mike "Darkside" Beakley’s story of how he was a Tacoma cop who got shot, left the force, and went to the ‘dark side’ and became a bounty hunter. Once you’ve gotten to know these two, the book really takes off with the story of Pam and Mike. The whole book reads like you’re hanging around at a bar with these two swapping tales over a few beers. They aren’t tall tales. They’re just stories of things that have happened in the thirty years they’ve been in the business. One of the things you learn early on in the book is that the criminals aren’t always just the people getting bailed out of jail. The bail bonds industry has more than its fair share of criminals as well.
Both Mike and Pam have a highly developed sense of morality and justice that is continually tested on all sides. For Pam, it’s working with unscrupulous people who are often committing as many crimes as the people they’re bailing out and don’t always respect that a woman can do what’s traditionally been a man’s job. For Mike, it’s the fact that he’s a former cop doing a job that most cops have zero respect for despite its similarities. While a good portion of the book tells entertaining and interesting stories of people skipping out on bail and being chased down by Mike and his partners, there’s also a good amount of information about what the bail bonds industry is and isn’t and more importantly what changes should be made in the industry.
As a lifelong resident of Tacoma, many of the higher profile cases and situations are events I recognize and remember reading about. Betrayal, Murder And Greed isn’t really a Tacoma crime history book, but it does a good job of showing what dealing with the criminal element of Tacoma is like. These are the stories of things that happen every day without most of us even being aware of it.
Bounty hunters risk put their lives on the line like many other public servants and like anyone else, there are good ones and bad ones. This book doesn’t shy away from that fact. Unlike police officers, bounty hunters don’t have any back up. They’re largely on their own. This is what makes the job dangerous and also what makes some criminal types gravitate to it. This results in Mike occasionally working with the sort of people he would have put behind bars in his previous job. There are times he wants to and does give up on the job, but his desire to do right and help make the industry what it should be is too great for him to stop. Meanwhile, Pam tries to keep clear of the corruption that seems to permeate so many aspects of the bail bonds industry. Ultimately, they form their own bail bonds company in an effort to show how to do the job right by example. Betrayal, Murder, And Greed is a good read for anyone interested in the bail bonds business or anyone who wanted to know what actually goes on at those places we drive by and hope we’ll never have to call.