Beginning in the summer of 1903, an insidious crime wave filled New York City, and then the entire country, with fear. The children of Italian immigrants were kidnapped, and dozens of innocent victims were gunned down. Bombs tore apart tenement buildings. Judges, senators, Rockefellers, and society matrons were threatened with gruesome deaths. The perpetrators seemed both omnipresent and invisible. Their only calling card: the symbol of a black hand. The crimes whipped up the slavering tabloid press and heated ethnic tensions to the boiling point. Standing between the American public and the Black Hand’s lawlessness was Joseph Petrosino. Dubbed the “Italian Sherlock Holmes,” he was a famously dogged and ingenious detective, and a master of disguise. As the crimes grew ever more bizarre and the Black Hand’s activities spread far beyond New York’s borders, Petrosino and the all-Italian police squad he assembled raced to capture members of the secret criminal society before the country’s anti-immigrant tremors exploded into catastrophe. Petrosino’s quest to root out the source of the Black Hand’s power would take him all the way to Sicily—but at a terrible cost.
|First, let me say that this is a history book as well as a book about one man’s fight against “The Black Hand”. Over the years reading about the history of the Mafia I knew that when it first arrived in the U.S. it was called the Black Hand. I had also read just small little references about Joseph Petrosino who was a detective in the N.Y. Police. He was the first Italian at a time when the police and fire were owned by the Irish. This was a time when the migration from southern Italy and Sicily were at a peak. Poverty levels in those two areas were great and many Italians were looking for a new start. Also looking for a new start were criminals leaving both of those regions, and Joseph Petrosino knew this. He was a beat cop working the Italian neighborhood. He could speak the language and the peddlers and people got to know him. Going to his superiors and explaining his concerns fell on deaf ears until bombings started to take place. This is when they made him a detective and after some kidnappings, he was given some men who were now called the Italian squad. Of course, most New Yorkers were not concerned with a few Italians being a bomb or their children being kidnapped for most wanted them to go back to Italy. This all changed though when The Black Hand moved to a richer side of Manhattan. Now people wanted action and expected it right away. They looked to Petrosino. His ways would not work today but for back then they were perfect. He also had to get people to believe that they were going to be safe in order to testify against anyone he brought to trial. In one year he had 17 murder convictions which were huge in early 1900’s. He would tell the N.Y.PD and the federal government that if they did not work together and start to arrest and deport these criminals, the Black Hand will only get stronger. They did they became the Mafia. This same meeting with the secret service he told them of a plot to kill President William McKinley, in Buffalo. Even after Roosevelt who was Vice President vouched for his abilities this was ignored. He was later assassinated in Buffalo. By 1909 Petrosino was married and had a little girl. He traveled to Sicily to go over records and compile evidence to deport anyone arrested who was a criminal in Italy. The problem was Police Commissioner Bingham gave an interview to a newspaper while he was abroad. Now knowing that he was in their homeland and on the lookout once spotted he was assassinated in the street of Palermo. This became headlines in New York. The funeral was huge over 200,000 people and the city declared the day a holiday. His widow died in 1957. He is created with starting the first bomb squad, and a lot of his crime fighting techniques are still used today. The author does a good job in showing you the plight of the immigrant Italians of this time and their struggles, whether it’s about the 11 lynched in New Orleans in 1891, or how a mine explosion in 1910 16 miners was killed 9 Italian, and by 1910 one in five that came to the U.S. were either killed or maimed while on the job, and then had to deal with their own doing this to them. If the government would have followed through with the detective's plans about deportation they could have stopped or deterred the Mafia. His ideas were not used until after 9/11 and of course, he gets no credit. There is so much to this book besides a criminal aspect. I focused on the other history part being Italian and my great grand came over around that time. For me, this was a very good book and worth the read.I got this book from Netgalley.com I gave this book 5 stars. Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com|