GANGSTERLAND by Tod Goldberg
Kirkus Star


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Targeted by both the feds and his bosses in the Chicago mob after messing up on the job, a prolific hit man hides out in Las Vegas as, of all things, a rabbi.

Sal Cupertine has been offing people for more than 15 years without being seen or leaving a spot of evidence. But on a bad day in 1998, he kills three FBI agents—"Donnie Brascos"—in a hotel room to avoid capture. The mob wants Sal’s head for ruining an unspoken arrangement with the feds that lets it buy heroin from the Mexicans. Sal’s older cousin in the "The Family" secretly transports him to Vegas, where, his face surgically altered, the hit man is trained to become Rabbi David Cohen. Meanwhile, Jeff Hopper, an underachieving FBI agent whose lack of planning is blamed for the deaths of his colleagues, is in pursuit. Suspended for refusing to go along with his superiors’ acceptance of a burned corpse as Sal’s, Hopper has his big moment dressing down mob enforcer Fat Monte, who proves wiser and more sensitive than he looks. Clearly influenced by the great Elmore Leonard, Goldberg puts his own dry comic spin on the material, with perhaps a bit more self-reflection on Sal/David’s part than Leonard would allow. While anyone with an Italian last name is grist for a crime columnist in late-’90s Vegas, the Kosher Nostra is quietly making its own big scores, running illicit schemes out of a local synagogue. With a memory that earned him the nickname Rain Man, Sal is great at spouting quotes from the Torah—even as he eyes his next victim—but has a tendency to mix those words up with Bruce Springsteen lyrics.

Clever plotting, a colorful cast of characters and priceless situations make this comedic crime novel an instant classic.

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 2014
ISBN: 9781619023444
Page count: 420pp
Publisher: Counterpoint
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2014


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