Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review of "World Gone By" by Dennis Lehane

As the book opens World War II is raging. Joe Coughlin, a former crime boss in the Tampa area, is now more of a businessman gangster living a (more or less) respectable life with his 9-year-old son Tomas. Joe is an advisor to current Florida crime boss Dino Bartolo and friends with top lieutenant Rico DiGiacomo, whom he's known since childhood. He's also on good terms with other gang bosses because he makes lots of money for everyone and doesn't skim or cheat. So Joe is surprised when a hit-woman needing his help tells Joe that a hit on him is scheduled for Ash Wednesday.

Meanwhile Bartolo's gang is short on personnel because so many men have been drafted. This opens lieutenant spots for some ambitious but less than brilliant criminals, like Rico's brother Freddy DiGiacomo. Freddy wants to push out Montooth Dix who rules 'Brown Town', the neighborhood where African-Americans and Cubans live. Freddy tries to kill Montooth but fails, losing two men in the skirmish. Freddy then insists that Montooth be murdered because he killed two white men - though Freddy started the trouble. Joe, who likes Montooth, is ordered to set him up. Joe's life is further complicated by his torrid affair with the mayor's wife and by the ghost of a young boy who seems to be related to him.

The author does an excellent job creating a dangerous atmosphere as Joe hobnobs with various gangsters who might be about to kill him. It's clear that being a gang boss is a tricky business, as there's always someone ready to bump you off and take your place.

The dramatic climax of the book takes place on a luxury yacht. The book should have ended right after this but the story drags on for a bit to a somewhat surprising ending. All in all this is a good story with vivid, interesting characters - recommended for fans of mystery/thriller or gangster books.

Rating: 4 stars

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