The Sacco Gang

Written by Andrea Camilleri Stephen Sartarelli (trans.)
Review by John Kachuba

Camilleri is one of Italy’s most prominent writers, with books in his Montalbano crime series frequently listed as New York Times bestsellers. This latest historical novel, translated from the Italian by Stephen Sartarelli, recounts the trials and tribulations of the Sacco family in 1920s Sicily.

Luigi Sacco is an honest, hardworking young man who succeeds in making a prosperous life for himself and his growing family in impoverished Sicily. When Luigi refuses to bow before the mafia’s extortion demands, he finds himself and his family, especially his three sons, in mortal danger. Despite increasing acts of violence against them, the Saccos remain true to the rule of law and order until the moment they find the authorities are in league with the mafia. With legal recourse denied them, the family takes matters into its own hands—attempting to protect themselves, their property and business—and are soon pitted against both the civil authorities and the mafia.

Camilleri based his novel on stories and documents he obtained from Giovanni Sacco, one of Luigi’s grandsons. The facts are tragic and heartbreaking since it seems that evil and injustice triumph over goodness and honesty. This “Italian western” is a short read, and the author treats the history lightly, sometimes with a bit of humor. It’s a worthwhile read for the simple fact of learning about the many miscarriages of justice the family suffers, but it sheds little light on the psychological, physical, and financial sufferings of the Saccos.