Don Corleone’s family navigates opportunity and treachery as Prohibition comes to a close in New York.
Playing around in the Godfather universe is a tightrope act. The original novel is a pulpy, popular synthesis of influences, while its film adaptation is a timeless classic. The video games are slushy Grand Theft Auto knock-offs, and Mark Winegardner’s sequels are labyrinthine marathons with epic casts. This time, the franchise falls back on more workmanlike writer Falco (Saint John of the Five Boroughs, 2009, etc.), who reels the story back to its roots through moments resurrected from unproduced scripts by Mario Puzo. It’s 1933, and the Don is at the height of his power. Peter Clemenza is Vito’s capo and Genco Abbandando remains consigliere. Michael and Fredo squabble underfoot but it’s Sonny’s explosive temper that film fans will recognize. Meanwhile, dutiful college student Tom Hagen is having a harmless fling—that turns out to be not so harmless when psychotic Luca Brasi decides to kill Tom for messing with his broad. In other boroughs, Giuseppe Mariposa conspires with Emilio Barzini and Phillip Tattaglia in his slow tango with the Corleones, while a pair of Irish brothers adds a new element to this dangerous mix. What works well is Falco’s depiction of Vito Corleone, which captures both the cool reserve of young Vito and the insight he demonstrates as Don. “To understand the truth of things,” he cautions Sonny, “you have to judge both the man and the circumstances. You have to use both your brains and your heart. That’s what it’s like in a world where men lie as a matter of course—and there is no other kind of world, Santino, at least not here on earth.” More obsessive fans also get a reveal about a member of the Don’s family, as well as a juicy unveiling of Luca Brasi’s back story pulled from The Godfather.
A worthy addition to the lurid world of the Five Families, if not quite an offer you can’t refuse.