Please, I beg you, stop reading this silly review and go grab a copy of Ron Malfi's SHAMROCK ALLEY.
You're still here?
Fine, be that way. Just know that if you continue reading this review, you're wasting precious moments that you could be spending with one of the best crime stories ever put to paper.
SHAMROCK ALLEY is the true tale of an Irish gang that terrorized Hell's Kitchen in New York. Led by Jimmy Kahn and Mickey O'Shay, the West Side Boys had their hands in a number of shady activities -- illegal weapon sales, drugs, extortion, etc. But what Kahn and O'Shay were best known for was the brutal slayings they committed, going so far as to cut up the bodies of their victims and dump the limbs all over the city (which the gang referred to as "Doing a Houdini," because the bodies just "disappeared"). Both the NYPD and the FBI had heard rumors of what Kahn and O'Shay were involved with, but had been unable to find a way to infiltrate the gang.
Enter John Mavio, a fictional representation of Malfi's own father. Agent Mavio works for the Secret Service, and is hard at work trying to track down the source of some counterfeit money that has been popping up all over New York. As he works his way into the counterfeit ring, he comes into contact with both Kahn and O'Shay. At first he has no idea who he's dealing with -- he is, after all, only interested in tracking down some funny money. But once NYPD and the FBI catch word that Agent Mavio has worked his way into the West Side Boys' inner circle, he's asked to go further undercover in an attempt to bring down Kahn and O'Shay for good.
While the details of this real-life scenario are fascinating all by themselves, Malfi adds a human side to the story by detailing Agent Mavio's personal life. Not only does the agent have to deal with the stresses of being put in life-and-death situations every day, but he also has to worry about a dying father and a pregnant wife. As the story progresses and Agent Mavio is forced to work longer and longer hours each day, the reader can see how much it affects everyone around him -- his father is left alone at the hospital; his wife is left to eat dinner by herself and go to bed wondering where her husband is; his partner begins to worry about the safety of the operation. Mavio's life becomes a juggling act, and as his time undercover keeps getting extended he finds it impossible to keep all the balls in the air at once. As such, the reader is left marveling at how brave and courageous Agent Mavio is in his dealings with the West Side Boys, but can also sympathize with him as his personal life becomes more and more strained.
SHAMROCK ALLEY is hands-down the best novel I've read all year, and I have a feeling it's going to be hard to find another book that can top it anytime soon. What makes it so special is the fact that Malfi was able to get a first-hand account from his father and write a very personal take on an unbelievable tale. In the hands of anyone else, SHAMROCK ALLEY would have merely been a factual retelling; with Malfi's exceptional storytelling prowess and "insider information," it becomes a powerful and harrowing story like none other.
Now, you stubborn review-reading bastards, go get the book and read it!
SHAMROCK ALLEY is available at Amazon as a trade hardcover for the sale price of $17.96.
(10+ out of 10)