Set two years after the harrowing events of Gangsterland (2015), Tod Goldberg’s impressive sequel finds ex-mob hit man Sal Cupertine exactly where the author left him, pursuing his duties as a mob operative in Las Vegas with a new, sadly malleable face, and a fresh identity and occupation, that of Rabbi David Cohen. The heat is not yet off, as Sal is still on the FBI’s Most Wanted list; in addition, he is being pursued by disgraced FBI agent Matthew Drew, who will stop at nothing to avenge the colleagues Sal murdered. In fact, when Drew attacks Sal’s cousin Robbie, who runs the Family business out of Chicago, it’s Sal who suffers, as the beatdown once again attracts unwelcome attention to the colorful tale of Sal’s disappearance. Sal is left to cope with the past and present as best he can, all the while ministering to his quirky and demanding congregation.
One can’t help but think of such greats as Mario Puzo, Jimmy Breslin, Elmore Leonard, and Donald E. Westlake while reading this witty, brutal, vital book. Goldberg is a master, expertly building upon the grim goings-on of Gangsterland, merrily pursuing plot points set up there to their logical, wicked ends. And, as if the impressive buildup of tension weren’t sufficient, he ends the current installment on a cliff hanger of truly epic proportions, setting up what appears to be the forthcoming and final installment of the Gangster trilogy. This reviewer is already getting itchy, waiting for that welcome denouement.