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Amy Gray has always loved to spy. as a child she devoured Nancy Drew mysteries and adored Harriet the Spy. Later, Gray gained a reputation among her friends as a great source of information and gossip. Whos dating who, whos cheating on who, whos hooking up with who, she says with a laugh. I am likely to know. It seemed only natural, then, that when Gray finally decided shed had enough of the piddling pay and abusive bosses of the publishing worldthe final straw came when her boss ordered her to take dictation during a trip to the bathroomGray would put her talent as a busybody to better use. She became a private investigator.

Gray chronicles her trench-coat adventures in Spygirl (Villard), a lighthearted memoir that marks her return to publishing, this time as an author. The book really tells two stories: a narrative of her adventures in a New York City populated by grifters and sociopaths and a record of her search for love. The result is Bridget Joness Diary meets The Rockford Files. It was kind of like keeping a journal, Gray says of writing the book. I couldnt just reflect on my job. It was always intertwined with my life. There was this huge connection between me being this investigator and tracking down these awful people and me out there in the dating world trying to figure out who these people were that I was hanging out with.

Awful people indeed. Gray helps bust a con man with a fondness for throwing himself wedding parties and then skipping town without paying the bills. She uncovers a wealthy CEO moonlighting as a male escort, and a hot-dog vendor who claims to be a Wall Street trader and nearly swindles $1 million from gullible investors. There were so many pathologies out there, Gray says. The things motivating people arent necessarily things you can relate to at all. For a lot of these criminals its not about the money. Its about power.

In the end, her work bears little resemblance to film noir clichs. Grays small Manhattan agency specialized in white-collar crime and was staffed by a group of misfits. There are no car chases or shoot-outs in the book, although Gray does smoke plenty of cigarettes on the job. (She says she has since quit.) She spends most of her time gathering information over the phone and tracking down documents on the Internet or in courthouse records.

When Gray isnt delving into financial scams and other malfeasance, shes dishing the dirt on her up-and-down personal life. Over the course of the book, Gray dates and says goodbye to Ben, Elliott, Edward, and Dan. At one point, she turns her investigative skills on Peter, snooping through his computer files to discover (wrongly it turns out) that he is in love with one of her friends. When she confronts him, he blows up. The Nancy Drew act has gone too far. He accuses Gray of spending so much time around psychopaths that she expects everyone to cheat. Its made you crazy, he says. Eventually Peter forgives her. The two are now engaged and living together in Manhattan while Gray works on her first novel. When shes not spying on her neighbors, that is.

Zachary Block is the BAMs staff writer.

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