In this suspenseful crime novel, tensions rise between the Albanian and Italian mafias on the streets of New York.
Two powerful criminal organizations—the Albanian Marku family and the Italian Miceli family—maintain an uneasy coexistence in the neighborhood along Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Aided by its fearsome reputation, the Albanian mob has been making inroads into rackets previously controlled by the Micelis, who, after a loss in recent decades of traditional values like loyalty and silence, have been decimated by the FBI. The groups are headed by Ilir Marku and Carmine Miceli, a pair of old-fashioned patriarchs—Godfather-type figures guided by honor, tradition, and caution. But when Ilir Marku’s son is killed in a rooftop drug deal gone bad, reports that an Italian man may be responsible threaten to ignite a war between the two families. It could be the start of a blood feud the Albanians call gjakmarrja: a pursuit of vengeance that can lead to the targeting of a whole family’s worth of male relatives. Gino Ranno, a real estate developer and family friend of the suspected shooter, tries to save the suspect’s life by working his extensive criminal connections. Accustomed to being around gangsters but unprepared for the level of violence he must face, Gino is closest to being the novel’s protagonist, although Romano adeptly juggles an assortment of other major characters as well. Carlo Del Greco, the veteran detective working the case (in the pay of the Markus), finds himself playing a double game as he tries to solve the murder case while also reporting to benefactors who have little interest in the finer, lawful points of the criminal justice system. The prose sometimes dips into cliché, but Romano keeps the pacing tight. He also displays a keen ear for dialogue and a sharp eye for small details, whether in the fast-paced violence and confusion of a street gunfight or at a Bronx safe house decked out in plastic-covered living room furniture, ornate chandeliers, and prisonlike iron bars on the windows and doors.
An engrossing, solidly entertaining organized-crime story with a few twists.