Most helpful critical review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Plenty Of Potential, But Came Up a Little Short
on March 31, 2013
Mafia books are one of my guilty pleasures, and I have read a fair number of works on the subject. I had never heard of Andrew DiDonato before picking up this book, although many of his bosses are familiar names. The book is the story of Andrew's mob life, from beginning to end, and it attempts to show mob life at the street level rather than the usual stories of higher-up bosses.
=== The Good Stuff ===
* The authors give us a look at the total life-cycle of a relatively low-level mobster. DiDonato starts out as being an outsider, and works very hard to become an insider. Once he accomplishes that, you can feel his disillusionment as he begins to question the "ethics" of the Gambino family. His tale relates the disappointment when he finds that "honor among thieves" is more a legend than a fact.
* Without giving away any more of the plot that is already in the description, DiDonato ultimately leaves the mob, and does so in fear of giving up his life to the mob and his freedom to the judicial system. The book does a nice job of relating how a mobster's life can come crashing down on many fronts at the same time, and his reflections of the sacrifices he has made versus the ultimate rewards. DiDonato claims this as one of the reasons for telling his story, an attempt to persuade others of the risks and likely outcomes of his choice of lifestyle.
* The book is a fairly easy read, and move along rapidly. Violence is obviously a part of the book, but is not a major component of the text, nor overly sensationalized. Unusual for this genre, there are not a large number of characters that are tough to keep straight, and most of the chapters (arranged chronologically) are fairly self-contained. I read the book in a day or two, and it held my interest throughout.
=== The Not-So-Good Stuff ===
* My biggest disappointment was that there was nothing really new, or particularly interesting. I hadn't read of DiDonato's exploits previously, but they were all very familiar tales of every other mobster I have read about. The narrative is written mostly at a higher level, without a lot of details, and the story often lapses into a generic mobster's tale. The biggest tagline, that there really is no honor code among mobsters, has been exposed before and in more riveting detail.
* The book is written in two voices. The first is a narrative voice, and the second is DiDonato's own first-person accounts. For some reason I have always hated this combination, and not really sure why.
* The authors seem to have made a conscious decision to cover more events, but in less detail. It does give a nice overview, and helps to tell a complete story of DiDonato's life. Unfortunately I have found that the details of these stories are more interesting and attention-grabbing than the overviews. Just a personal preference of mine.
=== Summary ===
The book is certainly worth a read, if for no other reason to capture the rise and fall of a Gambino soldier. It never really achieves "spellbinding" status, but it was certainly good enough to keep reading. My ultimate judgement is that the storyline is just too generic, and I probably won't remember much from the book in a year or so.