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    A novel that spans a decade in the lives of an organized crime family.

    In a story set in 1973 in small-town Wheeling, West Virginia, author Florio depicts a tightly knit clan struggling in an era when the Italian American mob is proliferating across the country. The author expertly sets the novel’s grim, menacing tone early on with the coldblooded contract killing of someone who paid for betrayal and treachery in blood. Protagonist Johnny Mesagne is described as someone who is “handsome, in a hoodlum sort of way,” and who’s a divorced father to estranged adult son J.J. Jenkins. Six years have passed since Johnny was a part of Wheeling’s mob faction led by kingpin Paul Verbania. His abrupt departure from the group has caused many changes in his life and in his circle of friends. Meanwhile, J.J. finds his father’s former mob involvement to be intriguing, and he decides to dip his foot into the life himself, but he does so in reckless, thrill-seeking ways, such as romancing Verbania’s girlfriend, Leslie Fitzpatrick, a deadly, impulsive move that plays out across the entire novel. Johnny’s never taken an interest in his only son until now, but he feels he must rescue him from a way of life in which people are sometimes “rubbed out.” The narrative volleys between 1963 and 1973, showing how Johnny moves up the Wheeling gang echelons and then abandons it all to live clean and manage a bar. He then works hard to shield his son from the mob’s nefarious influences. Ten years later, J.J.’s life is in danger. Is it too late for Johnny to save him?

    Readers will find that this book is a distinct departure from Florio’s previous publications, which focused mainly on football commentary and history and drew from the author’s livelihood as a sportswriter, commentator, and television and radio show host. Although this story is built upon a well-worn crime-fiction premise, the author’s take is a refreshing one and incorporates notes of suspense, terror, family drama, and black humor. He draws on true events in a fictional story that has a lot of moving parts, but they all manage to coalesce into a thrilling reading experience. Florio’s cast of characters—some good, others much less so—are all crystal-clear in their intentions and demeanor, which makes the story a devilish indulgence. Tough-guy Bobby and Paul’s driver, Vinny, are superbly portrayed as bumbling henchmen with poor judgment; Vinny is introduced with the line, “How the fuck did you forget the silencers?” Fans of The Godfather and The Sopranos will recognize and appreciate the overtures that Florio makes on behalf of his creatively inspired mob family—particularly the central ordeal concerning Johnny and his son. Every stylistic nuance and dialogue inflection feels pitch-perfect, and every character is believably hypersensitive to law enforcement and the dire consequences of a botched job. The novel’s conclusion has a twist that’s truly a surprise.

    An often engrossing crime epic about a mobster family’s intricate machinations.

    Pub Date: April 25, 2023

    ISBN: N/A

    Page Count:

    Publisher: PFT Publishing

    Review Posted Online: March 31, 2023

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