A real-life goodfella collaborating on a fictional thriller about organized crime with the undercover cop who spent six years penetrating the goodfella’s family? Fuhgeddaboudit!
But that’s precisely what we’ve got here: ex-mob boss Bill Bonanno, son of the legendary Joe Bonanno (shades of Marlon Brando in The Godfather), and former FBI undercover agent Joe Pistone (Johnny Depp in Donnie Brasco) are linked together as the unlikeliest of odd couples (à la Hatfield and McCoy). The fruit of their labor, however, turns out to be the very model of a high-octane page-turner, the kind so often promised and so infrequently delivered. It’s the characters, reader—people you may not like but whose reality you’ll hesitate to doubt and whose vagaries won’t bore you even for a New York minute. On law enforcement’s side are Laura Russo and Connor O’Brien, young and savvy FBI agents. Dedicated as all get-out they are, but they may be falling in love, a condition they entertainingly struggle against. A matter of professionalism. On the Mafioso side is that elegant wiseguy Bobby (Blue Eyes) San Filippo, smart enough to have been a successful whatever were he not—and he knows it—“an excitement junkie.” Russo and O’Brien are part of an FBI surveillance team concerned with the unsavory doings of the Freemont Avenue Social club, which has been thoroughly bugged. Surprisingly, events soon involve the disappearance of a Columbia University Slavic Studies professor, which in turn signals the appearance of new hoods in the ’hood, the Russian wiseguys. Bobby Blue Eyes hates them bitterly, with cause, while Russo and O’Brien have their own Russian ax to grind. A temporary alliance leads to a denouement in the O.K. Corral tradition, though buckets bloodier.
Bonanno and Pistone: a pairing made in bookseller heaven.