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Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia [Hardcover]

John Dickie
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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Book Description

19 Jan 2004

The Mafia has been given many names since it was founded one hundred and forty years ago: the Sect, the Brotherhood, the Honoured Society, and now Cosa Nostra. Yet as times have changed, the Mafia's subtle and bloody methods have remained the same. Now, for the first time, COSA NOSTRA reconstructs the complete history of the Sicilian Mafia from its origins to the present day, from the lemon groves and sulphur mines of Sicily, to the streets of Manhattan.

COSA NOSTRA is a definitive history, rich in atmosphere, and with the narrative pace of the best detective fiction.

The mob genre has finally grown up.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (19 Jan 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340824344
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340824344
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.2 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 534,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Dickie is Professor of Italian Studies at University College London. He is an internationally recognised specialist on many aspects of Italian history.

His works include Cosa Nostra. A History of the Sicilian Mafia, which has sold over 750,000 copies since it was first published in 2004, and Delizia! The Epic History of the Italians and their Food (2007), which has also been translated into many languages.

His latest book is Blood Brotherhoods: the Rise of the Italian Mafias, scheduled for publication in June 2011.

For more on John Dickie visit: http://www.johndickie.net/

Product Description

Review

A racy, sprightly work...strong on narrative and chilling accounts of the bloodstained events that have marked the mafia's history...a valuable work. (Scotsman)

Riveting (Sunday Telegraph)

Dogged...a brave work. This is the first history of the Sicilian Mafia to be written by a non-Italian. It gives John Dickie a neccesary detachment, frosty and undeceived. (Mail on Sunday)

A readable, highly informative, admirably systematic account of how the Mafia attained its hold. (Times Literary Supplement)

Lucid...grimly readable. (Daily Telegraph)

I couldn't put it down. His archival sleuthing is yoked to his powerful , often coruscating story-telling to create a sinister, horrific reality. (John Guy, The Sunday Times)

Highly readable...compelling. The narrative is entertaining and, at times, as chilling as the darkest crime fiction. At its best, it combines compelling horror with clear, rational analysis of the moral and political failings, which, even today, give the mafia a seat at many top tables in Italian society. (Glasgow Herald)

The first truly definitive English-language study of this myth-laden subject, and it is a pleasure to read...his book is notable for shrewd judgements couched in language that is vibrantly memorable. His acquaintance with the island and his immersion in the wider modern Italian culture allows him to convey the noxious atmosphere of corruption with flair. (The Sunday Times)

Monumental and gripping (Andrew Marr, BBC Start the Week)

Combines scholarship with a rip-roaring read (Sunday Herald)

A serious contribution to modern Italian history...it can be safely predicted that JOhn Dickie's book will be a sensation, not least because it has a dozen potential movies in it. (Clive James, Times Literary Supplement)

Well-written...his findings are supported by careful research and copious documentation. Racy...contains some powerful stories, scenes and surprises. (Irish Times)

Book Description

The compelling inside story of the Sicilian Mafia, the world's most famous, most secretive and most misunderstood criminal fraternity.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Introduction to the Sicilian Mafia 26 May 2009
Format:Paperback
I read one review here on Amazon claiming that this book is rushed and badly researched, and instead recommending Excellent Cadavers by Alexander Stille. I find these claims strange and irresponsible as Cosa Nostra is excellently written in fluid and engaging prose, Dickie's sources are as sound as a pound (the book features an extensive bibliography for a work of popular history), and Stille's (excellent) novel could not hope to fill the same niche as Dickie's.

Comparing Cosa Nostra to Excellent Cadavers is like comparing a Simon Schama book (ie, History of Britain) to an Alison Weir one (ie Henry VIII King and Court). Both relate to British History, but one is far more focused and specific than the other. Excellent Cadavers was an account of Falcone's maxi trial and it's fallout, whereas Cosa Nostra is a rounded history of the organisation. The clue's in the title (well, subtitle, but you know what I mean).

This is a novel worth reading. Don't be put off by the snobs who seem to deride everything accessible as being simplistic; this work is anything but, and yet eminently easy and enjoyable to read.

4.5 stars, so I'll round it to five, eh?
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cosa Nostra The History of the Sicilian Mafia 15 Mar 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book to learn a bit more about the History of the Mafia in Sicily as I planned to go on holiday there & like reading about the places I am going. I expected the book to be a bit heavy in parts and possibly dry but good in other parts HOWEVER it was a total surprise it was a great book, totally absorbing from beginning to end so fascinating you wanted to keep reading and reading - I learnt so much I didnt know about this intriging subject. So dont be put off by the historical side of it - it is FASCINATING READ!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent history 26 Nov 2006
By Siriam TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
The praise given by critics and reviewers when this book was first published in 2004 are easily understood and justified when reading it in paperback format. While many earlier books have largely relied on a review of recent Sicilian history and events post WWII (Norman Lewis, Claire Sterling) or focussing on a very specific area (such as Alex Stille's "Excellent Cadavers" on the story of investigating magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino), this is the first real recent effort I know of in English to write a full history of the Sicilian Mafia under its correct name of Cosa Nostra. This is faciltated by the recent outpouring of Italian writings based on the vast amount of new information and evidence now available and which Dickie fully acknowledges in his book. In addition Dickie has also researched a number of historical sources and reports which have been largely ignored by previous English language writers.

What really places this book above the rest is:

Dickie has proven much better at covering the 19th century foundation of Cosa Nostra (and its earlier roots in Sicilian society) and then tracking this organisation's development of being a very tightly controlled killing machine exterminating any competition through the 20th century to date - the fact that nearly half of the book is devoted to the period before the end of WWII reflects this approach.

He has avoided the trap of spending too much time covering the US Mafia with its well known more public image and history, instead only referring to it as it actually impacts and helps our understanding of the Sicilian society's history.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read 30 Sep 2005
Format:Paperback
I was recommended this book as a good holiday read. I read it in two days by the pool but it's a brilliant diversion for any time.
It focuses on Sicily and the real history of the Sicilian Mafia, only touching on other places (e.g. the American mafia) as and when the action there is led by / impacts on the Sicilian 'men of honour'. He starts in the early 19C right up to 2004, discussing Berlusconi and some of his 'tainted' associates...
Dickie is an excellent writer. I can't stand cliches or bad grammar etc but his prose is as fluid as a novel. I also found it helped that he is English, so currency conversions are all to pounds and he uses English analogies (e.g. when explaining how the word 'mafia' is now used across the world, for the Russian mafia, Japanese mafia etc, he likens it to using the word Hoover for all vacuum cleaners!).
The writing is detailed, meticulous and fascinating. I've recommended it to all my friends and really believe this is a book worth reading.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This fascinating book on the history of the Sicilian Mafia kept me up all night reading! It is rare for a non-fiction book--a historical one at that--to be so gripping while never falling into a sensationalized version of the facts. The book was an impulse buy, since the subject matter had never held great fascination for me. But it turned out to be one of the best books I've read in a long time. In addition to giving an obviously well-researched history of this shadowy organization, Mr. Dickie deals with many long-cherished myths about the Mafia--such as Lucky Luciano's fabled landing with Allied troops in Sicily during WWII--and gives solid reasons why we should, or shouldn't, believe them. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the subject matter--and also to those who think that they don't!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling and enlightening
No obvious biased stereotypes, just facts and witness testimonies, very well written and worth every penny.... nice one Dickie!
Seandon85
Published 1 month ago by sean donaghy
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading
John Dickies has proved himself to be the best informed writer on the Sicilian Mafia, and his wellresearched books are well written and persuasive. This is no exception. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dott Ram
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but long-winded
Title above says it all really, at around 500 pages the book is a monster and I ended up skipping loooots of pages. Interesting material and stories but not at all succinct.
Published 6 months ago by SB
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling and fascinating read
I found this book a compelling and fascinating account of the history of the Sicilian Mafia. John Dickie certainly knows his subject and provides the reader with an informative... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jim Leggett
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book!
For anyone wanting to know more about the Mafia's story without being overloaded with data, this is the book you want.
Published 10 months ago by Francisco
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
best book ever on the origin of the mafia could not put it down would reccomend to anyone with a serious interest in the origins of the mafia
Published 13 months ago by Mr A.G.A.Lester
3.0 out of 5 stars Great book but let down by poor writing
Interesting book but unfortunately the writing style is a bit haphazard making it a little to read. I found myself flicking backwards to try and work out the chronology and whether... Read more
Published 13 months ago by D. Sims
5.0 out of 5 stars something differant
very interesting it changed my understanding of the mafia and I will be purchasing more of the books written by this author
Published 14 months ago by Ray
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly written
An extremely well researched true tale of the Cosa Nostra, from the 19th century to the beginning of the 21st. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Uther Doul
5.0 out of 5 stars Cosa Nostra
I work in Sicily and this gave me an enormous amount of background information to pass on to my clients.
Published 18 months ago by Avid Readerr
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