Veteran New York journalist and historian Paul Moses opens the book with a night in Palermo, Sicily, on March 12, 1909. Four gunshots are fired and two men flee the scene. The murdered man is Giuseppe Petrosino, the only Italian American detective in the 8,100 member New York City police force, and head of a secret anti-mafia detective squad. Petrosino was in Sicily to conduct investigations, along with Sicilian authorities, when he was slain.
The story of Petrosino’s relentless fight against the mafia presence in New York City is fairly well-documented. In The Italian Squad, Moses focuses on the lives of the New York detectives who followed in Petrosino’s footsteps: Anthony Vachris, Charles Corrao, and Michael Fiaschetti.
Immediately after Petrosino’s death, the Italian Squad on the New York City force was disbanded. Ten years later, under Michael Fiaschetti, the group was reconstructed and began to show some success, as they took on powerful gangsters while trying to keep innocent bystanders safe, all against the backdrop of rampant anti-Italian sentiment.
Moses introduces fresh material from sources like private diaries and government documents to narrate the dramatic story. In this explosive story, writes one reviewer, Moses “carefully strips away the mythology that has always enveloped the Italian Squad and offers instead a nuanced portrait of brave but flawed men who fought the good fight for their people and their city.”