A chilling, meticulously documented appreciation of how the Sicilian Mafia seized control of the global narcotics trade, which puts paid to the notion that any nation's war against drugs can be successfully waged only on the home front. With the wide-angle vision of an investigative journalist, Sterling (The Terror Network, The Time of the Assassins, etc.) traces the honored society's origins to the time of Garibaldi, She focuses, though, on the resurgence of the brotherhood in the aftermath of WW II, when Palermo-based dons began creating and feeding the world's heroin habit. Drawing on a wealth of personal contacts and archival sources in Italy as well as the US, the author offers a tellingly detailed account of how Mafiosi from a small Mediterranean island (where homicide, intimidation, money, and political corruption allowed them to operate with virtual impunity) organized a multinational criminal conspiracy of perdurable resilience. Only in recent years, Sterling notes, have law-enforcement agencies started to understand that the traffic in dope is a globe-girdling enterprise that requires a cooperative, coordinated response. Indeed, she submits, the Sicilian Mafia has established an efficient production/distribution system and forged working alliances with Chinese Triads, Japan's Yakuza, Colombia's Medeliin Cartel, and other outlaw orders, giving it an effective corner on Western markets for cocaine as well as heroin. Defectors, internecine conflicts, and tougher prosecution policies have wounded the Sicilian Mafia and its American counterpart (La Cosa Nostra) during the 1980's, the author concedes. Despite the significant convictions gained in show trials (like the so-called Pizza Connection proceedings), Sterling offers persuasive evidence that the underworld union's staying power has become such that it continues to survive--and thrive. In like vein, she debunks the abiding myth that Mafia members of any stripe are other than vicious, unprincipled cutthroats. First-rate, eye-opening reportage on a subject of socioeconomic consequence.