Boss of Bosses

Written by Clare Longrigg
Review by Mike Ashworth

This is the story of Bernardo Provenzano, Italy’s most notorious criminal. Provenzano was initiated into the Mafia in the 1950s when, for many young men, it was the only way to climb the social ladder out of endemic poverty. Carefully and quietly he worked his way up the criminal hierarchy. After a bloody but ultimately futile campaign against the state, the Cosa Nostra was on its knees and Provenzano seized his opportunity and took over the leadership. He restored its power by infiltrating business, law, and politics at all levels of Italian society.

The book follows Provenzano’s rise to power from his criminal beginnings as a cattle rustler through to his arrest by a crack police team who, on 11 April 2006, found him hiding in a tiny shepherd’s hut. Highly detailed and researched, Clare Longrigg has produced a fascinating and eye-opening book on the shadowy figure who was the head of the Cosa Nostra. Well balanced, it is neither a sympathetic portrayal nor a condemnation of the man and the organisation. Instead the author allows the character of Provenzano to emerge through his actions, and the culture both political and personal in which he operated. Those with an interest in the Mafia will find this a welcome addition to their bookshelf.