Permanently Entertaining! The most frightening thing about this can't-put-it-down page-turner is that a lot of it could be true! It's about a Faustian pact between a corrupt White House and organized crime. Italian mafiosi get worn down by the up-and-coming Russian mob; American ambassadors are assassinated; a compromised NSC chief goes crazy. And it turns out from his bio that author James Bruno himself is steeped in both milieus: the State-Pentagon-CIA permanent bureaucracy of nerds and buck passers as well as the New York Italian-American hangouts where men in sleek suits pass money from palm to palm with no need to even whisper omerta. History shows, and you've gotta figure there's still some overlap in these two equally hardball worlds of American power, and sure enough, here are the denizens, backstabbing, blackmailing and scheming against each other and through it all extracting more and more blood.
The Washington scenes are totally convincing, as mediocrities and the terminally pompous meet and meet and decide nothing except to continue their pointless meetings, the stultifying "interagency process." The New York scenes, with the Italian mob painfully coming to grips with the competitive ruthlessness of the Afghan War-trained Russians, are unbeatable ("You lose because you become soft, like rest of American society...Now mafia exists only in movies. This will not happen to us.") So much mafia fiction these days reads like twice reheated Mario Puzo or worse; who can believe a word of the dialogue? This one is different ("We got Beaver Cleaver working at Gangsters R Us. He'll get in the way.") When the Italians and the Russians meet at "Pironi's," a classic New York Little Italy joint, every word and every action is plausible; you come away feeling you've been there, maybe you even want some of that tiramisu the wiseguys hog down as they bluff out their respective turfs.
Then the good guys, including an ex-Marine who hires on as security for the mafia don, and a beautiful Russian escort to powerful men confront forces apparently too strong to resist: the U.S. Government plus two, make that three, rival mobs. But then...read the book. I guarantee you will finish with that eerie feeling of roman a clef; you may never again be able to watch Washington bigshots on Sunday morning talk shows without feeling they are all on the take, or worse.