An acrid slice of Mafia life from Cirni, author of two mob seriocomedies, The Kiss off (1987) and The Come On (1989--not reviewed). Cirni is writing more darkly than usual here, replacing his cheesy, upbeat recurrent hero Frank Fontana with the real salami: "Dip" Dippolito, a knee-breaker for top Brooklyn mobster Tony Montello (read: John Giotti). When Dip stops a bullet aimed at Jimmy Montello, Tony's son and heir-apparent, Tony takes a shine to the low-level mobster and decides he's just the man to tutor wayward Jimmy into graduating high school ("Tony said, 'Geometry! What the fuck is that?' Dip said, 'Squares, I think. And circles 'n stuff' 'Yeah, yeah.' Tony said. 'That stuff. . .Study 'im up on circles and shit' "). Glad for the chance to move up and maybe become a "made guy," Dip agrees, despite friction from his girlfriend Robin, who wants him to go straight, and despite the risk of cozying up to the Montellos with a mob war in the offing: Who fired the shot at Jimmy? Was it Tony's rival mob kingpin, Joey Cara? When Cara's car is blown up, the war begins, even though it seems that an unknown third party committed both acts of violence. As Dip dodges Cara's gang and sweats to keep Jimmy in line and Robin happy, his troubles multiply: His best pal Prize confesses that he was an unwitting accomplice to the foiled hit on Jimmy. Can Dip bail him out? Prize goes into hiding while Dip roams Brooklyn, digging out clues to whoever set up Prize and started the mob war. Dip's sleuthing isn't over before he finds Prize dead on a New Jersey beach, his eyes shot out; enraged, the mobster extracts a brutal revenge that brings a new life for himself but tragedy to the House of Montello. Fast-paced, streetwise, and as sharp as a garrote.