FENCE JUMPERS by Robert Leuci


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 Leuci's best, a Mafia opera worthy of Verdi. Novelist and ex-cop Leuci (Double Edge, 1991, etc.), whose true history as an outcast NYPD undercover cop was told in Robert Daley's book and Sidney Lumet's film Prince of the City, stirs plenty of basil and garlic into a marvelously gripping, richly felt story of three childhood friends in Queens who grow up to be two cops and a Mafia don's son. They are hard-drinking, emotionally chaotic Detective Dante O'Donnell; his buddy in bugging and bagging Mafia hoods, Jimmy Burns (an emotionally sensitive David Caruso kinda cop); and Jojo Paradiso, son of Salvatore ``Sally Blue Eyes'' Paradiso, godfather of Queens. It's Jojo's father's rule that no drugs be sold by his family. But that rule costs the cash-poor family heavily, may well put it out of business, and weaken it for a takeover. Meanwhile, Dante, Jimmy, lesbian cop Kathy Gibbons, and older, Puerto Rican cop Ray Velasquez--all of the Organized Crime Control Bureau's intelligence team--stake out the heavily bugged Paradise family social club and transcribe family business. But federal agents also working the families inform the bureau's chief that not only have the feds planted a fence-jumper among the top Paradisos, but the Paradisos have a fence-jumper in the bureau. So fence-jumping goes on with Dante trying to turn Kathy into a hetero, and with Jojo silently going against his father's rule and entering into a fatal cocaine setup to boost the family's fortunes. Jojo doesn't know that Paradiso lawyer Barry Cooper, who sets up the cocaine deal for him, has been turned and that the big-time Spanish dealer is really a wired federal agent. Leuci works up thunderheads of loyalty and betrayal among these cops and between dangerous Jojo and softhearted Jimmy Burns, with Dante O'Donnell a quivering, just-released bowstring throughout. Most headily inspired scene: a crazed waitress leads Jojo safely through a ring of cops. Steamclouds of entertainment and great cooking.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-13073-2
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995


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