An ailing mob boss is determined to dictate his memoirs to an unwilling Philadelphia schoolteacher--a fact that leads to a predictably violent battle for the taped transcripts of their sessions. Vincent Vespers has been trying unsuccessfully to stay out of trouble ever since the hit-and-run accident in which he killed a stranger--a crime for which his no-good brother Frank took the blame, did his time, and insured that Vinnie would be under his thumb forever. Now teacher Vinnie, who also wants to resign as Frank's bookkeeper, gets pressured to work on taping mob patriarch Carmine Tucci's reminiscences. Everybody from Tucci's wayward lieutenants Tony Buttoni (Tony Buttons, of course) and Tommy Green to his deadly wife to a pair of Abbott and Costello federal agents would love to get their hands on those tapes, and eventually the scramble will spill over to Vinnie's visiting family--outdoorsy brother Ted, sister Jamie, and her husband Cyril--but not before Vinnie has time to get involved with Tucci's daughter Marie, still grieving for her boyfriend Patty Leone, who vanished one night years ago, and whose disappearance has more to do with Vinnie's family than he knows. The strands of a complex plot don't tighten as this first novel goes along; more often you get the sense that DiBartolomeo, instead of weaving, just keeps dropping one thread and picking up another. The dialogue and the sense of Philly grunge, though, are both on the mark.