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Picks and Pans Review: Omerta

updated 07/03/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/03/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Mario Puzo

Puzo's eighth and last novel—finished shortly before his death at age 78 last July—tells a familiar tale. After New York City Mafia leader Don Raymonde Aprile is gunned down by a rival family on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral, his Sicilian nephew Astorre takes charge. Astorre is one busy capo. He must avenge the murder, keep the don's three children safe from gang attack and make the family's legitimate banking business flourish—all the while steering clear of the FBI. In Omerta (a Sicilian term for silence and secrecy), Puzo serves up his usual peppery stew of betrayal and persuasion. One enemy finds not a horse's head but the bodies of his two dogs on his bed. A disobedient underling's arm, still wearing a Rolex watch, is delivered to a corrupt judge in a box made for long-stemmed flowers. The sparks of originality are few, however, and the narrative seems sketchy and, sadly, in need of further work. Still, though Puzo fails to flesh out his tale, even these bones are worth the read. (Random House, $25.95)

Bottom Line: The families are still feuding

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