Blood Washes Blood

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9780099410621: Blood Washes Blood

Lu sangu lava lu sangu, 'Blood Washes Blood'. Sicilian proverb, alluding to the torrent of unforgiving vengeance that flows from an unforgivable offence. More than a century ago, Frank Viviano's namesake was murdered at a lonely crossroads in Sicily. He had been a revolutionary and a thief, a Robin-Hood bandit who traveled by night in the robes of a friar. Sicilians called him 'the Monk'. Shortly before his death in 1993, Viviano's grandfather whispered the name of the murderer - and nothing more. The whisper sent him to the fishing village of Terrasini west of Palermo in search of the Monk and his killer; in pursuit of a mystery that left his namesake dead on a country lane, drove his family to America and set in motion an eighty-year conspiracy of silence. From his first day in Sicily, Viviano was confronted by ever more baffling clues and coincidences, an impenetrable code of discretion and a maze of bureaucratic dead-ends all linked with the island's tortured history and the continuing blood feuds of organized crime. Somewhere in the parallel Sicily that no stranger will ever know was locked the answer to the riddle of his namesake's killing. The revelation, when it came, was to change Viviano's entire understanding of his family's past and the violent contradictions of his own life. Blood Washes Blood is part detective story, part touching personal memoir where past and present meet in a spellbinding mix. Variety has described the book as 'an Italian Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil'.

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Review:

Blood Washes Blood opens promisingly. Francesco "Frank" Viviano is a third-generation Sicilian-American. On his final visit to his 95-year old grandfather in Detroit, he is let into the family secret. Frank's namesake, also known as The Monk, had been murdered in Sicily over a century ago. "How did he die?" Frank asks. "God help me. The boss tell his men to kill him," his grandfather whispers. "The boss, Domenico Valenti." A few months later, his grandfather dies. Sadly, this turns out to be the book¹s high point. Rather than turning into a gripping Mafia read, such as Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Viviano launches into a rather mundane travelogue as he travels back to Sicily to try to piece together the details of The Monk's death. Part of the problem here is that, despite Viviano¹s best efforts, the Monk himself never emerges as anything more than a one-dimensional low-ranking 19th-century Mafioso, which makes the story of only passing interest. The other hurdle is that Viviano's attempts to build suspense are only barely believable. Yes, Palermo is home to the Mafia and, yes, the Mafia are not known for their chattiness. But you can't help feeling that the reason no one is telling Viviano very much about his great-great uncle's death owes less to the omerta and more to the fact that The Monk was a very minor player and it was all such a long time ago that no one really remembers or cares. For Viviano, though, there is a catharsis of sorts in the denouement; for the reader it is more likely to be relief. -- John Crace

Review:

A book that cannot be forgotten…he has placed a book on the table that demands to be read. -- Lorenzo Carcaterra, bestselling author of Sleepers and Gangsters

A brilliantly personal narrative…I can’t recommend it highly enough. -- Nicolas Pileggi bestselling author of Wiseguy and Casino

A uniquely unforgettable account of a Mediterranean island under attack by a criminal society. -- Norman Lewis

Accessible…intriguing…compelling reading -- Times Literary Supplement

It's a unique book and a unique accomplishment. -- Greil Marcus

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