The Manic Mission, a Heartfelt Mafia Thriller by C.J. Simone

The Bottom Line: A smart, heartfelt mafia thriller that deftly explores the danger and fragility facing a contemporary crime family. We can’t wait for Book Two. 

The first entry in C.J. Simone’s Children of the Mob series introduces us to the Giordano family. The Manic Mission is told from alternating points of view, opening with the perspective of Gabe Giordano, an Italian American heartthrob who is determined to make his living in the music business. Classically trained, but with a passion for club music, Gabe fronts a promising band called Shine. 

But Gabe is surrounded by mortal threats. In addition to his father, a mob-connected loan shark, there’s Lester, a gangster with strong ties to the Sicilian Mafia (“He should stink, but he doesn’t. Smells like licorice. Or maybe that’s the mattress too. Sex and piss and licorice”). According to a semi-reliable source, Lester has promised Gabe a slow death. 

Gabe also suffers from mental health issues that have driven him to several suicide attempts. The secrets he carries undoubtedly weigh on him. And adding to all the risk in his topsy-turvy life, the very thing he loves most – his band, Shine – is a project he shares with Savannah Fletcher. Trouble is, Savannah – who also tells much of the story – is also Gabe’s on-and-off girlfriend. The pair aren’t technically a polyamorous couple, but they have an agreement that every time they break up, they have permission to date other people. Despite their amicable agreement, the relationship seems to be trapped in an endless cycle of passion, resentment, jealousy and fear.   

Gabe is richly drawn as a passionate artist trapped in an abusive life that he didn’t choose. Simone’s balancing act of Gabe’s sometimes frenetic narratives and alternating perspectives make him hugely sympathetic. In the early going, Gabe speaks about his “shot at redemption” – even though he admits he doesn’t know how redemption works. But what he really wants is escape. As Simone ratchets up the suspense in each succeeding chapter, it’s increasingly clear that Gabe’s life is slowly killing him. Even sexy Mayson, who Gabe can’t resist, reeks of trouble. 

Throughout, Simone juggles a large cast of characters and shines as a first-person storyteller. It’s a refreshing approach for the organized crime genre, and one that gives the novel plenty of heart. But her crowning achievement is Gabe, who may go down as one of the most believable and compelling children of mobsters since young, conflicted Michael Corleone. 

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