In Greco’s historical thriller, a former investigative reporter enters the Mafia’s dangerous world when he attempts to prove the innocence of a man jailed for murder.
Maria Gallo learns that Vittorio Erbi, who years ago had helped get her off the streets, was convicted for killing a San Diego mob boss, yet she’s convinced he’s innocent. She goes to her sister Michelle, a former criminal defense attorney, who calls in friend and ex-reporter Nick Lanouette. As Nick and Maria search for evidence to exonerate Vito, flashbacks reveal the Erbi family’s gradual descent into illicit and Mafia-related business, as well as a feud between the Erbis and another family—a conflict that eventually turns tragic and violent.
Back in present-day 1990, the investigative duo’s belief that they’re being followed is confirmed when the mysterious and fearsome gangster Sal confronts them with a none-too-subtle threat.
Despite starting as a murder mystery—the opening scene is Maria asking for Michelle’s help—the author’s novel devotes more time to the historical fiction. Nearly half the story is set in the past, beginning in 1909, when Emilio, Vito’s grandfather, arrives in America from Italy to stay with his uncle, aunt and cousins. Though the back story has little to do with the murder in 1990, it’s fascinating nonetheless: The plot touches on Emilio starting his own family; his son Ari’s (Vito’s uncle) involvement in some nefarious deeds; and even a younger Vito in the mid-1950s, when the family’s strife is well underway. Historical events are well-incorporated; Tina, Emilio’s daughter, sees a newspaper article on the foreboding stock market crash of 1929.
Nick and Maria’s investigation doesn’t offer many surprises; it’s predominantly the two looking for and trying to interview a bartender who may be able to provide an alibi for Vito. But the present-day setting is chock-full of suspense: Sal is an unforgettable villain, utterly terrifying when he visits Maria at the massage parlor where she works. Another murder relevant to the ongoing investigation makes it abundantly clear that Nick or Maria may be next.
Mystery and crime-thriller genres compete, but it’s the latter that flourishes, bolstered by an extraordinary historical backdrop.