Mini Book Review ~ THE DEADLY DON

The Deadly Don: Vito Genovese, Mafia Boss

by Anthony M. DeStefano


From enforcer to godfather, Vito Genovese rose through the ranks of La Cosa Nostra to head of one of the wealthiest and most dangerous crime families in American history.  

Vito Genovese ran rackets as a member of Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria’s gang in New York City before joining forces with Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Meyer Lansky, and Bugsy Siegel as bootleggers during Prohibition. As a soldier in the Castellammarese War, he helped orchestrate Masseria’s death on behalf of Brooklyn crime lord Salvatore Maranzano, consolidating his position and power before ensuring Maranzano, too, was knocked off. For the next three decades, Vito Genovese—shrewd, merciless, and utterly savage—killed countless gangsters in his bid to become the capo di tutti i capi—boss of bosses—in the American Mafia. Genovese would betray some of the mafia’s most notorious bosses, including Albert Anastasia and Frank Costello, to eventually seize control of the Luciano crime family, one that still bears his name today.

In The Deadly Don, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anthony M. DeStefano presents the rise and fall of Vito Genovese in this first comprehensive biography of the legendary mafioso—from his childhood in Naples, Italy, and the beginnings of his bullet-ridden criminal career on lower Manhattan’s mean streets, through his self-exile in the mid-1930s back to his homeland where he ran a black market operation under the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, and his return to New York where Genovese made a fortune as the head of an illegal narcotics empire. DeStefano reveals the important and terrifying role Genovese played in the creation of the Mafia, detailing his bloody and ruthless lifetime of crime that would put him behind bars for his last fifteen years—and securing his infamous place in the history of organized crime.

My thoughts: This book adds to my trove of knowledge about different mob men, and is another good mob book by the author. Well written and researched, it gives an in depth look at Vito Genovese from beginning to end. I never knew he was involved with Mussolini during the second world war. Pretty amazing stuff. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author , and the publisher.

The Deadly Don

Publisher: Citadel – 356 pages

Publication: May 25th, 2021

My rating: 5/5 STARS

About the author– Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist Anthony M. DeStefano has covered organized crime for over three decades, including the crime beat for New York Newsday for the past twenty years. Known as the preeminent mob historian, his books on organized crime include The Big Heist, Gangland New York, King of the Godfathers, Mob Killer, Top Hoodlum, The Big Heist and Gotti’s Boys, among others. He lives in New Jersey. Please visit him online at

Book Review (ARC) ~ Death on Ocean Boulevard

Death on Ocean Boulevard: Inside the Coronado Mansion Case

by Caitlin Rother

Award-winning investigative journalist and bestselling author Caitlin Rother explores the mysterious death of 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau, who was found hanging from a second-story balcony of her multimillionaire boyfriend’s San Diego mansion in 2011. She was naked and gagged, with her ankles tied and hands bound behind her. On the door to her bedroom, investigators found a hand-written message: “SHE SAVED HIM CAN YOU SAVE HER.” The death was deemed a suicide, but Rother reveals there’s more to the story…

“I got a girl, hung herself in the guest house.”

The call came on the morning of July 13, 2011, from the historic Spreckels Mansion, a lavish beachfront property in Coronado, California, owned by pharmaceutical tycoon and multimillionaire Jonah Shacknai. When authorities arrived, they found the naked body of Jonah’s girlfriend, Rebecca Zahau, gagged, her ankles tied and her wrists bound behind her. Jonah’s brother, Adam, claimed to have found Rebecca hanging by a rope from the second-floor balcony. On a bedroom door in black paint were the cryptic words: SHE SAVED HIM CAN YOU SAVE HER.

Was this scrawled message a suicide note or a killer’s taunt? Rebecca’s death came two days after Jonah’s six-year-old son, Max, took a devastating fall while in Rebecca’s care. Authorities deemed Rebecca’s death a suicide resulting from her guilt. But who would stage either a suicide or a murder in such a bizarre, elaborate way?

Award-winning investigative journalist Caitlin Rother weaves stunning new details into a personal yet objective examination of the sensational case. She explores its many layers–including the civil suit in which a jury found Adam Shacknai responsible for Rebecca’s death, and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department bombshell decision to reconfirm its original findings. As compelling as it is troubling, this controversial real-life mystery is a classic American tragedy that evokes the same haunting fascination as the JonBenet Ramsey and O.J. Simpson cases.

My thoughts: This story was was really big news and captured the attention of many. People were fascinated by the case, wondering what happened and was it ever going to really be known. In 2011, when Rebecca Zahau was found dead, hanging from the balcony of the Spreckels mansion, it just seemed such a bizarre thing to happen. Then you read about Max Shacknai’s injury just 2 days earlier, and you’re really intrigued! Rother followed the story from the time Zahau died, writing and researching the story for 9 years all with an eye to doing this book. She was keeping tabs on the story all along, writing as it went, waiting for the right time. I have seen many shows done on TV about this case, but this book is the latest word and likely the deepest dive into the story. I’ve liked previous works I’ve read by Rother like Poisoned Love, Lost Girls, and Then No One Can Have Her. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Caitlin Rother, and the publisher.

Death on Ocean Boulevard

Publisher: Citadel – 368 pages
Published: Apr 27th, 2021
My rating: 5/5 STARS

About the author– Caitlin Rother is a New York Times bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-nominated non-fiction, true crime American-Canadian author and journalist. She worked as an investigative reporter at daily newspapers for nineteen years before deciding to write books full-time. Her work has been published in Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast. Her more than 100 TV/radio appearances include Nancy Grace, On the Record, the Jay Thomas Show, Snapped, and numerous shows on Investigation Discovery, E!, A&E, XM Radio, America at Night, C-SPAN and various affiliates. Rother also works as a book doctor, writing/research coach and consultant, and teaches narrative non-fiction writing and digital journalism at UCSD Extension and San Diego Writers, Ink. Please visit her Website at


Three Ordinary Girls: The Remarkable Story of Hannie Schaft and the Oversteegen Sisters, Teenaged Saboteurs and Nazi Assassins

by Tim Brady

An astonishing World War II story of a trio of fearless female resisters whose youth and innocence belied their extraordinary daring in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands. It also made them the underground’s most invaluable commodity.

May 10, 1940. The Netherlands was swarming with Third Reich troops. In seven days it’s entirely occupied by Nazi Germany. Joining a small resistance cell in the Dutch city of Haarlem were three teenage girls: Hannie Schaft, and sisters Truus and Freddie Oversteegen who would soon band together to form a singular female underground squad.
Smart, fiercely political, devoted solely to the cause, and “with nothing to lose but their own lives,” Hannie, Truus, and Freddie took terrifying direct action against Nazi targets. That included sheltering fleeing Jews, political dissidents, and Dutch resisters. They sabotaged bridges and railways, and donned disguises to lead children from probable internment in concentration camps to safehouses. They covertly transported weapons and set military facilities ablaze. And they carried out the assassinations of German soldiers and traitors–on public streets and in private traps–with the courage of veteran guerilla fighters and the cunning of seasoned spies.
In telling this true story through the lens of a fearlessly unique trio of freedom fighters, Tim Brady offers a never-before-seen perspective of the Dutch resistance during the war. Of lives under threat; of how these courageous young women became involved in the underground; and of how their dedication evolved into dangerous, life-threatening missions on behalf of Dutch patriots–regardless of the consequences.
Harrowing, emotional, and unforgettable, Three Ordinary Girls finally moves these three icons of resistance into the deserved forefront of world history.

My thoughts: This book, about three teenaged Dutch girls who fought in the resistance against the Germans in WWII during the occupation of their country, was really the kind of book I can’t get enough of. I stayed up all night reading it because I became so engrossed in it, and it was just so good. Two of them were sisters, but later they all ended up working together. It’s filled with action and danger, and so many close calls, yet the girls keep going back for more. You will meet the sisters, Truus and Freddie, and then there is Jo, who is also known as Hannie, the girl with the red hair. Each of them is special in her own way, and valuable to the resistance. This is an amazing true story of courage, as so many of these types of war books are, and I do recommend it if you like this genre. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Tim Brady, and the publisher.

Three Ordinary Girls

Publisher: Citadel – 336 pages
Publication: Feb 23rd, 2021
My rating: 5/5 STARS

About the author– Tim Brady is an award-winning history author who’s critically acclaimed books include Twelve Desperate Miles, A Death in San Pietro, His Father’s Son and Three Ordinary Girls. In addition to contributing numerous articles, reviews, essays and short stories for a wide range of magazines, newspapers and journals, he has written and helped develop a number of television documentaries, including the Peabody Award-winning series, Liberty! The American Revolution for PBS. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

BOOK REVIEW ~ Lord High Executioner

Lord High Executioner: The Legendary Mafia Boss Albert Anastasia

This is an excellent mob book that’s just filled with all kinds of good stuff on Albert Anastasia and the Murder, Inc. crew that has been needing done. It’s finally going to be all in one place, the whole story, start to finish. Read how Anastasia got his start, why wanted to be the boss so bad that major rules were broken. I’ve always heard him mentioned in other books but never knew much about him at all. This book changes all that.

You find out who he followed, who he was friends with, and who he really didn’t like. There is also a lot about the killings he committed under the guise of Murder, Inc. or otherwise. And ones contracted and performed by others for large financial gains for the group. If you enjoy true crime or mobster books, you’ll likely enjoy this read. I’ve read some of both Dimatteo’s and Benson’s other true crime works. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, authors Frank Dimatteo & Michael Benson, and the publisher.



Publisher: Citidel – 320 pages
Publication: May 26th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


The Authors-   Frank Dimatteo is a lifelong Brooklynite, Mafia “survivor,” and publisher of Mob Candy magazine. He is the author of the acclaimed memoir, The President Street Boys: Growing Up Mafia, as well as Mob Candy’s Brooklyn Gangsters and Manhattan Gangsters.

Michael Benson is the author of more than sixty books, including the true crime titles Betrayal in Blood, Killer Twins, and Mommy Deadliest. He also wrote Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination, and most recently, The Devil at Genesee Junction. He regularly appears on ID: Investigation Discovery channel, including On the Case with Paula Zahn,  and Deadly Sins. He is the recipient of the Academy of American Poets award.


BOOK REVIEW ~ A Tangled Web

A Tangled Web: A Cyberstalker, a Deadly Obsession and the Twisting Path to Justice


I was so excited when I saw that there was a true crime book coming out by Leslie Rule, Ann Rule’s daughter, that I was beside myself! Now I just had to get my hands on an early copy to review. I struck out in the first place I tried, then it turned up in another and I got it then. I was really thrilled to get an advance copy of this book folks, Ann Rule was one of my favorite writers and dear people. I still have some books that she signed for me just for sending them to her. She also took the time to respond to emails from people who thought they might have an interest in writing true crime, and had a newsletter with updates on the cases she wrote about, which was really cool.

So on to the book, A Tangled Web. This is an awesome case for a book, I must say. I do recall the case, whether it was in a book or on TV, I’m not sure, it’s been too long ago. But it’s a whopper, and Ms. Rule does a wonderful job with it from start to finish. She lays it out and explains the details in a manner that keep it from getting too confusing, despite the use of some Internet terms and different methods used online to try and cover your tracks. The story kept me engaged and turning the pages until it was over, and I can’t believe I inhaled it all at one go. It’s really a sick, twisted story that I would have doubted had I not already known of it, and that it was certainly true. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Leslie Rule, and the publisher.



Publisher: Citadel – 304 pages
Publication: Apr 28th, 2020
My rating: 5/5 Stars


The Author– Leslie Rule is a Seattle area artist, photographer and bestselling author of two suspense novels, five nonfiction books, and dozens of articles in national magazines, including Reader’s Digest.  At seventeen, she began to work with her mother, author Ann Rule, as research assistant and trial photographer. Many of Leslie’s courtroom photos appear in her mother’s books.  Visit Leslie’s website:


2leslie rule

BOOK REVIEW ~ Losing Jon

Losing Jon: A Teen’s Tragic Death, a Police Cover-Up, a Community’s Fight for Justice


This was a good true crime book by author David Parrish that’s coming out next month (April 2020). It certainly got my attention and kept me involved with the story of twin brothers Mickey and Jon Bowie, who were at a party in a motel room one night when the cops were called over a noise complaint. There were a group of others there that night too, but the twin Bowie brothers ran afoul of the anger and received the brunt of the punishment of the police that night. It was really over the top. The aftermath left ongoing animosity between several of the cops and the underage partiers. The twins, with Jon in particular, was being harassed daily. Tt gets really twisted a few nights later when Jon is found dead, and the mystery is on to figure out how it really happened. Many twists in this true crime book. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author David Parrish, and the publisher.




Publisher: Citadel – 256 pages
Publication: Apr 28th, 2020
My rating: 4/ 5 Stars


The Author- David Parrish is a semi-retired technical writer and first-time author of the non-fiction book, LOSING JON. He writes about witnessing the unexpected twists and turns of a disturbing and often-frightening journey through the criminal justice system and beyond. It takes place in Columbia, Maryland, a planned community once advertised as New America where he and his wife raised their two sons and still live. He grew up in a blue-collar family near Durham, North Carolina, graduated with a B.A. in English at the University of North Carolina, married his Ohio-raised wife, and followed a public health job to Jackson, Mississippi. He then switched careers and moved with his wife and sons to Maryland, halfway between their Ohio and North Carolina families. Three or more days a week he commutes – usually top-down in his aging green Mustang convertible – the short distance to his network security writing job. The rest of the week he does chores, plays golf, occasionally fishes a local reservoir, and meanders through county backroads on his Mustang-matching-green, retro Triumph Bonneville motorcycle.​

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Book Review ~ Gotti’s Boys

Gotti’s Boys: The Mafia Crew That Killed for John Gotti


This was a good look at mob henchmen’s actions and functioning of the particular Bergin crew that operated to help John Gotti on his rise to power and followed his orders. They were busted by recordings made from bugs that were planted in the social club and some other’s home. Indictments were issued from that and the gathering of information after it was learned that one associate and his wife had died in a plane crash under false name, which brought out a lot of things unknown before (Salvatore Ruggiero). Some mentioned: Angelo Ruggiero, John Corneglia, Mark Reiter, Neil Dellacroce, Gene Gotti.

This is a very decent book for those who like mob books in the later days of the Mafia in the US when Gotti was coming up and then in power. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Anthony M. DeStefano, and the publisher.


Publisher – Citadel ~ 356 pages
Publication – July 30th, 2019
RATING- 4/5 Stars


The Author- Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anthony M. DeStefano has covered organized crime for over three decades, including the crime beat for New York Newsday for the past twenty years. His books on organized crime include Gangland New York, King of the Godfathers, Mob Killer, The Big Heist, and Top Hoodlum: Frank Costello, Prime Minister of the Mafia.