Ed Dolan is a man on a mission, and that’s bad news for Chris Massi. Friends for a time when they were teenagers, the two boys’ lives were forever altered when Chris’ father killed Ed’s. The fact Chris’ father, Joe Black Massi, was a mafia hitman and Ed’s was acting as hired muscle trying to protect the target of Joe Black’s mission would seem to complicate the matter a bit. Not for fifteen-year-old Ed, who swore revenge against the Massi family, no matter how long it took.
Fast-forward 25 years and both Chris and Ed have become successful attorneys, Chris working at a prestigious defense firm, Ed as a United States Attorney. Despite having married the daughter of a powerful mob kingpin, Chris has managed to steer clear of “the life” otherwise. Even that association was short lived, when Chris and his wife divorced after only 5 years.
Things start seriously falling apart for Chris when he’s falsely indicted for securities fraud. The prosecuting attorney? Ed Dolan, of course. When that trial ends in acquittal Dolan pursues an ethics complaint with the New York State Bar, succeeding in having Chris disbarred for his alleged “mob ties.” His life already on the ropes, the knock-out punch comes in the form of the murder of his father, not so surprisingly as a result of a mob hit. When his former father-in-law tells Chris he knows who killed his father, Chris has a soul-searching choice to make: try to rebuild his normal life, or embrace the one he’s spent his whole life trying to avoid?
If it was merely a matter of a son deciding whether or not to seek revenge for his father’s murder, Chris could probably force himself to walk away. However, his own fourteen-year-old son, Matt, has been showing a disturbing interest in “the life” of late, and Chris wonders if he may be able to leverage the situation to insure his father-in-law will never involve Matt in the family business. The stakes are high, and they only get higher as Chris wades deeper and deeper into a situation that becomes more complex with every step, and with Ed Dolan just waiting for Chris to step out of line.
In Sons and Princes author James LePore has crafted a sizzlingly tight mafia tale, one that is far from black and white in either its presentation or resolution. As evidenced by the increasingly ethically questionable decisions Ed Dolan makes in his effort to settle the score with the Massi family, the good guys aren’t always so good. Similarly, the bad guys aren’t always so bad, as the deep-seated concepts of honor and loyalty which are so fundamental to the mafia life show themselves in some interesting ways. Indeed, LePore has done a wonderful job of making every character three-dimensional and believable, avoiding the heavy-handed stereotypes that all too often rear their ugly heads in any story involving the mafia.
Though the main storyline comes to a resolution of sorts, as in real life not all the issues in Sons and Princes are wrapped up in a neat little bow at book’s end. With his previous two novels, A World I Never Made and Blood of My Brother, LePore wrote a series of short stories to expand upon the initial stories presented, and he’s indicated he intends to do the same for Sons and Princes. The battle for Chris’ life may have been temporarily won, but it’s not entirely clear where the battle for his soul stands, and I certainly look forward to finding out.
Sons and Princes is available from The Story Plant (ISBN: 978-0984190522).
Also be sure to check out James’ guest blog, “Back to the Basics.”