The final volume of Puzo's sensationally popular Mafia trilogy (after The Godfather, 1969, and The Last Don, 1996), completed shortly before his recent death, explores in characteristically slam-bang fashion the consequences of a violation of the Sicilian `code of silence` (omerta) on which Mafia security and power are based.
The flaws are easy to spot: generic characters, middling dialogue, overfamiliar narrative situations and twists, and—especially in this installment’s expository opening pages—an overreliance on summary that retards the story's pace and makes us perversely eager for some salutary slaughter. Puzo doesn't disappoint, in the tangled tale of the legacy bequeathed by venerable Don Raymonde Aprile, who had forsworn criminal activities and built a `legit` banking empire. When the Don is murdered, his presumably respectable heirs (a high-powered woman attorney, a TV network executive, a stiff-necked West Point officer, and their adopted `cousin,` a pasta mogul) are drawn into a fabulously plotted crossfire of intrigue, betrayal, and murder. Also implicated: a seemingly straight-arrow FBI agent (`the man who broke up the Mafia` in New York City), the importunate crime boss who thinks he’s pocketed him, a cheerful party girl whose list of lovers includes several criminal bigwigs, and a corrupt (and murderous) black woman police commissioner. The surprises keep coming as the body count increases, and Puzo expertly steers the plot toward an agreeably bloody climax (`the Macaroni Massacre`). There are also such incidental pleasures as a pair of nonidentical-twin brother assassins, a courtly drug-lord who aims to build a defensive nuclear arsenal, and several wry Mafioso aperçus (`After you decide to kill a man, never speak to him. It makes things embarrassing for both of you`).
To some extent a retread, but who cares ? This is lurid and fascinating pop entertainment. Nobody did it better.