A tour of the southern areas of Italy held captive by organized crime.
British journalist Lane (Berlusconi’s Shadow: Crime, Justice and the Pursuit of Power, 2004), the business and financial correspondent for The Economist in Italy, traveled through the southern regions to better understand the Mafia—or, more precisely, the numerous organized-crime groups dominating the region, including the Cosa Nostra in Sicily; the Camorra in Naples and the surrounding countryside; the ’Ndrangheta in Calabria; and the Sacra Corona Unita in Apulia. The author shows how business owners, government officials and citizens live—and sometimes die—because of the violent crime and less physically violent corruption endemic to each area. Lane visits numerous anti-Mafia crusaders who risk their well-being as they labor for a less corrupt Italy and Sicily, and the author admires them without lionizing them. Mostly, though, he sees the crusaders as Don Quixote types who are unlikely to neutralize the rapaciousness of the lawless organizations. Occasionally the author takes a side trip to examine the beauty and historical significance of each region’s landmarks. Because the wealth accumulated by Mafia figures plays a vital role in fueling otherwise poor local economies, the non-criminals of each region feel reluctance to challenge the violent residents. Speaking up often leads to death, as Lane shows through numerous examples. The author admits to fear as he travels, knowing that he is already familiar as a journalist who dares to publish regularly about the lawlessness of Italian societies. Lane feels pity for the lifelong residents of the crime-infested locales, wondering how they can possibly sustain hope for a better future. The situation is not as grim in Rome, writes the author, but the state and church powers are frequently unwilling to challenge the status quo of the South.
A serviceable though relentlessly depressing chronicle.