Most of us have heard of Lynda La Plante and associate her with her T.V offerings such as Widows, Prime Suspect and Trial and Retribution but like alot of people I had never read any of her novels. Whilst browsing in a discount store I saw a copy of Bella Mafia by Lynda La Plante for a £1 and decided to buy it.
I like all things mafia related but have to admit I started this book once and couldn't get into it so I left it, read something else then came back to it. The problems I had the first time around vanished this time and I soon found I was completely hooked.
The story is mostly about the Luciano family, Roberto Luciano is the Don (head of the family) and he has broken the mafia oath and agreed to give evidence against another mafia member, Paul Corolla. His reasons are personal but this brings about a series of events that leads to all the men in the Luciano family being murdered, including the Don. This all happens in the early nineties.
We then go back to the thirties when Roberto was a young man and read about how he met his wife, Graziella, and climbed his way up the mafia ladder to become head of the family. He and his wife have four sons, Michael, Constantino, Alfredo and Frederico. The Luciano family becomes very powerful and many of the other families want some of Roberto's businesses to traffic drugs into the country but he remains adamant he wants no part of narcotics.
Over the years the boys grow up and marry, I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying Michael is killed by a hitman as it tells you that in the first few pages. Constantino marries Sophia, a beautiful woman who has a dark secret from the past that affects the Lucianos only they don't know it. They have two sons who are also killed with all the Luciano men even though they are only little children at the time. Alfredo marries Teresa, a plain woman with brains, because it helps establish a useful link for the Luciano family. Frederico marries Moyra, a blonde casino worker with very little brains.
As we follow the couples we are shown what it is like to be a mafia wife, they have very little say in anything and their husbands know everything about them, including part of Sophia's dark secret. Sophia becomes a designer and believes she has achieved this by herself but finds out she hasn't, there was pressure applied to her partner and the business is just a front for a shadier business. Teresa takes a more active role in the family business but this isn't common knowledge and is just because her husband, Alfredo, has no head for figures. Moyra has no clue about what goes on and just wants to spend the money it brings in. Graziella tells herself she doesn't know how the money is made but she does, she just can't admit it to herself.
Eventually we come to the night before the wedding of Teresa and Alfredo's daughter, Rosa, and a young man from another family. Every single male member of the Luciano family is killed on the same night and only the women remain. Their husbands are gone, Sophia has lost her two children too and they have no money of their own and no-one to turn to as Roberto was about to give evidence none of the other families will help them. The money their husbands earnt has vanished and their lawyer Mario Domino is stalling to hand any over when he has a heart attack and dies.
Graziella, Sophia, Teresa, Moyra and Rosa are all that's left of the Luciano family and must find a way to claim back what they are owed and take revenge for the killing of their men.
This story gives a real insight into how the women of the mafia had no say, no idea what their husbands were up to most of the time and no clue how dependent they were on them. When the women are without men everything changes for them and they no longer command the respect they used to or have the money they once had. They have no help from any of the other families and must find a way to claim back the money and businesses that are being snatched from under their noses.
As we go through the years Lynda La Plante makes the characters so real you dread the massacre and really feel for the women once the men are all gone. They are all given such depth and individual personalities you feel as though you know them.
The way in which the story unfolds after the men are gone has you turning the pages at high speed because you can see what's coming but you don't know exactly how the writer will conclude it. It's a situation where one of the women has to do something not many women could and you wonder if she can.
The police are suspicious of certain women within the group so they have to become very adept at lying and have to also stay ahead of the other families who are all run by men who think nothing of sending men to inflict pain upon them to get what they want.
This book had me completely hooked, to the point where I searched online to see if there were more to follow but sadly I couldn't find any. We really get to know not just the Luciano family but other members of other families too and delve deep into their backgrounds to make sense of the ending.
I liked the style of writing too which involved short sections about each of them so we kept up to date with all the sons and their wives and got to know them. We also follow Paul Corolla closely too so we get a real feel of the hatred between him and Roberto and see why Roberto agrees to give evidence.
The book is 964 pages long and has been turned into a movie too. It is available to buy from Amazon for £5.99 new or £0.01 used from Amazon Marketplace and if you like all things mafia you'll love it!