A suspenseful, informative take on an ambitious criminal investigation.



A nonfiction account reveals how a dedicated law enforcement team dismantled one of San Francisco’s most notorious gangs over the course of four years.

If gangs commit so much of their mayhem in the open, with members flaunting their allegiance and violent achievements, what makes it so difficult to catch and prosecute them? In their book, debut author Santini, a special agent, and journalist Bolger (Near Side of the Moon, 2013) demonstrate all of the challenges involved. They meticulously reconstruct how Santini and his team from Homeland Security Investigations finally brought San Francisco’s branch of MS-13 to justice. The authors take readers back to the gang’s founding by Central American immigrants in Los Angeles in the early 1990s, tracing MS-13’s expansion into an international criminal web and detailing the complicated rules and hierarchies of the San Francisco offshoot. By the early 2000s, MS-13 and other gangs had made the city’s streets infamously unsafe, viciously killing one another to protect their turf while frequently catching innocent bystanders in the crossfire. But putting individuals behind bars fails to deter crime overall, so in 2004, Santini set about infiltrating MS-13 with a series of undercover informants who collected varied evidence against dozens of members, waiting for the right time to bring them down. In these politically charged times, readers will be quick to notice that although fairly businesslike in tone, the book is singular in focus, squarely presenting the views of law enforcement officials. (Sanctuary city policies are seen almost entirely through the lens of how they obstruct police, and misguided hippies and liberals are gently but clearly derided.) Nevertheless, Santini and Bolger provide readers of all backgrounds with valuable insights into the psychology of both individual gang members and MS-13 as a whole, portraying the deep-rooted feelings of loyalty and pride that young men especially derived from their shared identity. But the crimes they committed in the service of this identity were gruesome, as the authors adeptly illustrate, and with the investigation’s stakes building ever higher both publicly and privately, Santini and his team became increasingly determined to finally punish those responsible.

A suspenseful, informative take on an ambitious criminal investigation.   

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5381-1563-3

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2018

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"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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The author brings the case for judicial redress before the court of public opinion.



A former Justice Department lawyer, who now devotes her private practice to federal appeals, dissects some of the most politically contentious prosecutions of the last 15 years.

Powell assembles a stunning argument for the old adage, “nothing succeeds like failure,” as she traces the careers of a group of prosecutors who were part of the Enron Task Force. The Supreme Court overturned their most dramatic court victories, and some were even accused of systematic prosecutorial misconduct. Yet former task force members such as Kathryn Ruemmler, Matthew Friedrich and Andrew Weissman continued to climb upward through the ranks and currently hold high positions in the Justice Department, FBI and even the White House. Powell took up the appeal of a Merrill Lynch employee who was convicted in one of the subsidiary Enron cases, fighting for six years to clear his name. The pattern of abuse she found was repeated in other cases brought by the task force. Prosecutors of the accounting firm Arthur Andersen pieced together parts of different statutes to concoct a crime and eliminated criminal intent from the jury instructions, which required the Supreme Court to reverse the Andersen conviction 9-0; the company was forcibly closed with the loss of 85,000 jobs. In the corruption trial of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, a key witness was intimidated into presenting false testimony, and as in the Merrill Lynch case, the prosecutors concealed exculpatory evidence from the defense, a violation of due process under the Supreme court’s 1963 Brady v. Maryland decision. Stevens’ conviction, which led to a narrow loss in his 2008 re-election campaign and impacted the majority makeup of the Senate, seems to have been the straw that broke the camel's back; the presiding judge appointed a special prosecutor to investigate abuses. Confronted with the need to clean house as he came into office, writes Powell, Attorney General Eric Holder has yet to take action.

The author brings the case for judicial redress before the court of public opinion.

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61254-149-5

Page Count: 456

Publisher: Brown Books

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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