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Book Review: Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg

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 -Sal kills three “Donnie Brascos”-undercover FBI agents, and a CI. He fears for his own life after this, and calls his cousin Ronnie for help, ending up in a situation he’d never imagined.  After a few nights in the back of a refidgerated meat truck, Sal ends up in Las Vegas, where, a few surgeries and some intensive training later, and Sal Cupertine becomes Rabbi David Cohen. Leading a growing congregation in Las Vegas, overseeing the population and the temple and the new cemetery, Rabbi Cohen, surprises even himself as he spouts quotes from the Torah,  Old Testament, or Oldies Radio.  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.
Gangsterland is a wickedly dark and funny novel. I’m not normally one for gangster stories (I’ve never seen the Godfather, or Scarface, or any of those iconic films, although I have watched a couple of seasons of The Sopranos, and I’m a fool for Law & Order), but I made an exception here. I am a big fan of the podcast Literary Disco, which Tod Goldberg is part of, and I’d read some of his short stories, and quite enjoyed them. So I had to read this, and I am glad I did. One night, that’s all it took, and I laughed myself silly half the time! This is a great book, and I am saying now: read it!! The twisted idea of turning a hit man into a Rabbi is so brilliant, and works so well. Goldberg has a knack for language, and his characters are fully fleshed out, even the minor ones. I can’t wait to read his other novels.

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