The jig may be up for Las Vegas Rabbi David Cohen, the unlikely identity assumed by ruthless hit man Sal Cupertine. It's only a matter of time before an obsessed former FBI agent tracks him down—or the fake rabbi's cosmetically altered face caves in.
Set in 2001, two years after the events of Goldberg's audacious Gangsterland (2014), this sequel finds 40-ish Sal/David weary of the Jewish mob wars in Vegas and missing his family. He left his wife, Jennifer, and 7-year-old son, William, in Chicago more than three years ago after murdering three undercover FBI agents and escaping town in a refrigerated meat truck. He plans on somehow rejoining his loved ones after having recorrective facial surgery, but those plans are complicated by his mob boss cousin Ronnie's own face problems. The ex-FBI man, whose former partner was one of the Sal's victims, takes out his anger by bashing in Ronnie's brains. Hidden away in a Windy City rehabilitation center named after Ronnie for his donations ("The only legit thing here was the pain," muses Jennifer, the toughest of cookies), the attackee hangs by a thread. How long will it be before Sal/David pays a similar price? Boasting less outlandish humor than Gangsterland but far more ambition, the sequel conducts extended discussions on how America is defined by crime, boldly linking gangland violence to the 9/11 attacks. The author overdoes it a bit with the not-a-rabbi's religious pontifications, but the second time around, Sal/David's mixing of Talmudic citations with Bruce Springsteen lyrics is still very funny.
The sacred gets the stuffing kicked out of it by the profane in this wild and sometimes-shocking novel.