Bruschini, a renowned Italian journalist, delivers a riveting and fast-moving tale about Prince Ferdinando Licata, a man for whom the terms justice and honor are subject to interpretation. In the insular and violent society of 1920s Sicily, Licata wields power and influence that few would dare oppose. Elegant, aristocratic, and intellectual, Licata never seems to be involved in the vendettas and revenge killings that are part of Sicilian life, yet he always gets his way; could he be a boss in the Sicilian mafia?
When the Fascists take control of Italy in the 1930s, everyone feels their brutality and oppression, even the mafia. So, when trumped-up murder charges are leveled against Licata, he escapes to the United States hoping to find peace but instead finds himself embroiled in bloody warfare between Irish and Italian gangs in the Bronx.
Bruschini draws together an intricate cast of characters from both sides of the Atlantic, showing how the mafia used this connection for the mutual gain of both Sicilian and American Mafiosi. But with that gain also came dangerous competition and duplicity, drawing Licata, his family and friends into an ever-widening circle of violence.
Not a story for the squeamish, there are several graphically violent sections in the book. To the author’s credit, they are not gratuitous but accurately portray mafia behavior of those times. The historical research that went into the novel is solid and interesting, revealing little-known history, such as the role of the mafia in helping the Allies with the invasion of Sicily during World War II.
While one would wish for a novel that didn’t stereotype all Sicilians as mafiosi, the fact is that the mafia was, and remains, an important cultural icon in Sicilian history. Bruschini, at least, gives us an entertaining and exciting account of that history.