THE BUTCHER by Philip Carlo


Anatomy of a Mafia Psychopath
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Mix The Godfather with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and you’ve got this routine true-crime study of one of the most coldblooded murderers in history.

Tommy Pitera was a gangly kid who was picked on in his Brooklyn schoolyard by bullies who “made fun of his voice, his clothes, his walk.” That was a bad thing to do, writes mayhem maestro Carlo (Gaspipe: Confessions of a Mafia Boss, 2008, etc.). The bullies may have lived to tell the tale, but little Pitera grew up dreaming of revenge, studying martial arts and weaponry and developing an unhealthy fascination with the various ways in which the human body can be deconstructed. Fast-forward a decade, and Pitera is one of the most frightening soldiers working for the Bonanno crime family, top dogs in “the largest concentration of Mafia members in the world…ground zero for the American La Cosa Nostra.” Pitera didn’t just kill at his bosses’ behest; he gleefully chopped up his victims into little pieces and hid the bits away in wildlife refuges, trash dumps and abandoned lots. Throughout Carlo’s account, Pitera slaughters and butchers, killing mostly within the ranks of those for whom being offed is an occupational hazard, but then crossing the line, at least in the complicated etiquette of mobsters, by doing in a badly behaved party doll: “The killing of a woman . . . that way—all cut up like that—was something out of the ordinary even for them; beyond the pale, even for them.” Pitera’s downfall came courtesy of a particularly hardworking federal agent who is about the only good guy in this story. Carlo misses no opportunity to work in a cliché, and some of his connections don’t quite cohere (what Pearl S. Buck has to do with Pitera’s psychopathy is anyone’s guess), but the tale, however clumsily told, has gruesome power enough to hold the reader’s attention.

For Mafia buffs, a sure thing—though the denouement may be the most shocking thing about this labored book.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-174465-6
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2009