by Tod Goldberg

Overview: Sal Cupertine is a legendary hit man for the Chicago Mafia, known for his ability to get in and out of a crime without a trace. Until now, that is. His first-ever mistake forces Sal to botch an assassination, killing three undercover FBI agents in the process. This puts too much heat on Sal, and he knows this botched job will be his death sentence to the Mafia. So he agrees to their radical idea to save his own skin.

A few surgeries and some intensive training later, and Sal Cupertine is gone, disappeared into the identity of Rabbi David Cohen. Leading his growing congregation in Las Vegas, overseeing the population and the temple and the new cemetery, Rabbi Cohen feels his wicked past slipping away from him, surprising even himself as he spouts quotes from the Torah or the Old Testament. Yet, as it turns out, the Mafia isn't quite done with him yet. Soon the new cemetery is being used as both a money and body-laundering scheme for the Chicago family. And that rogue FBI agent on his trail, seeking vengeance for the murder of his three fellow agents, isn't going to let Sal fade so easily into the desert.

Gangsterland is the wickedly dark and funny new novel by a writer at the height of his power – a morality tale set in a desert landscape as ruthless and barren as those who inhabit it.

Gail Reid (12/15/15): The premise of this book – a Chicago mob hit man is shipped off to Las Vegas, undergoes plastic surgery and intensive training and emerges as an assistant rabbi in Las Vegas – requires you to suspend reality for a delightful few hundred pages. Sal Cupertine is known as the “rain man” among the mafia in Chicago for his crackerjack memory. When his latest hit goes awry,Sal is sent off for service in a new territory with a new face and new “career.”

After a year of more challenging reading, book clubs and discussions, I needed a break and thought a different kind of mystery might do the trick. While the humor is often irreverent, the book is incredibly clever. Author Tod Goldberg has crafted some engaging characters who move the plot along quickly. When wise guys start spouting Hebrew platitudes, it makes for a very oddball story in the context of the mob meets the *Torah. Thanks to my husband for finding me the right read!
Rating: ****

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