CODES OF BETRAYAL by Dorothy Uhnak


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 A New York City cop whose Irish relatives have been killed by the Mafia branch of the family vows revenge--even though it means he'll get pulled every which way from here to next week. Hours after attending his great-grandfather Nicholas Ventura's 75th birthday party in Westbury, Peter O'Hara, 12, is shot dead during a petty drug quarrel his cousin Sonny had with some independent dealers in Chinatown. Peter's father, Det. Nick O'Hara, is devastated by his son's death--and even more devastated when his cop uncle Frank O'Hara tells him that the story Papa Ventura told him about Peter's death was just a whitewash of Sonny, and that 30 years ago, Papa had ordered Nick's own father killed when he witnessed a fatal scene on a city construction site. It's time for revenge on the Venturas, Frank urges Nick. But first Uhnak (The Ryer Avenue Story, 1993, etc.), not content to leave Nick deadened with grief over his son's death and his grandfather's treachery, has to plunge him further into despair by packing him off on a botched robbery that leaves him struggling in the clutches of the DEA--and all the more ready to rebound to the Ventura fold, now as a government informer. Nick's betrayal of his grandfather is complicated not only by his affair with Papa's spoiled darling, manipulative fashion-designer Laura Santalvo (who has her own drug-soaked secrets to hide), but by the elaborate introduction of dozens of figures--Papa's widowed sister Ursula, loyal retainer Tommy the Dog Bianco, Nick's longtime antagonist Funzy Gennaro, Junior Caniello, Esq.--who pop up and then get disappeared, as if by the Mafia. Coupled with Uhnak's telegraphic prose, it's enough to make the whole series of triple-crosses read like a treatment for an even longer story--a television mini-series, maybe--that could dramatize Nick's never-all-that-divided loyalties against the full range of characters tantalizingly sketched in here.

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15582-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1997