The galley of Vasile's first novel flashes blurbs (from Jack Anderson, Robert Moss, Adam Hall, Loren D. Estleman, et al.) the way one of the author's fictional mobsters might flash gold chains- -but all the good words don't make this story of betrayal within a mafia family much more than a tidy packet of Cosa Nostra clichÇs. Like his hero, Paul Dante, Vasile is a cop-turned-p.i., and so the crime-color here rings true—though the mafia detail is no sharper than that in most nonfiction mob books; moreover, Vasile has a way of squandering its impact, as when he compresses into only a few flat lines the ancient ceremony by which his villain, Genaro Orsini, becomes a ``made'' man. The author has come up with a nice premise—that 30 years ago, Don Vincent Benedetti, a ``man of honor,'' arranged with J. Edgar Hoover to keep mob crime out of D.C. and to avoid pushing drugs, in exchange for FBI tolerance of nondrug mob activities elsewhere. But now the feds are out to get the aging Benedetti—and their secret weapon is man-of-dishonor Orsini, a sadistic operator whom they're squeezing as an informant: a swift move, since he's about to wed the daughter of Benedetti's brother/underboss, Santo. Meanwhile, Dante, who grew up with Santo, romances a non-Italian dance teacher and tries to make ends meet with his p.i. work and the seedy bar he owns. He smells a rat in Orsini but can't persuade others of his suspicions until after the feds chase Benedetti into hiding, then arrest him, and Orsini tosses a mistress who would blackmail him off a 12-story balcony— an act answered in kind by Benedetti in an airplane flying above the cold Atlantic. The name is Benedetti, not Corleone, but it's still cold Puzo pasta—and Vasile has no new spice to add to the sauce.
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