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The Black Hand
Cover of The Black Hand
The Black Hand
The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History
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The gripping true story of the origins of the mafia in America—and the brilliant Italian-born detective who gave his life to stop it

*Film rights optioned by Paramount Studios, starring Leonardo DiCaprio*
Beginning in the summer of 1903, an insidious crime wave filled New York City, and then the entire country, with fear. The children of Italian immigrants were kidnapped, and dozens of innocent victims were gunned down. Bombs tore apart tenement buildings. Judges, senators, Rockefellers, and society matrons were threatened with gruesome deaths. The perpetrators seemed both omnipresent and invisible. Their only calling card: the symbol of a black hand. The crimes whipped up the slavering tabloid press and heated ethnic tensions to the boiling point. Standing between the American public and the Black Hand's lawlessness was Joseph Petrosino. Dubbed the "Italian Sherlock Holmes," he was a famously dogged and ingenious detective, and a master of disguise. As the crimes grew ever more bizarre and the Black Hand's activities spread far beyond New York's borders, Petrosino and the all-Italian police squad he assembled raced to capture members of the secret criminal society before the country's anti-immigrant tremors exploded into catastrophe. Petrosino's quest to root out the source of the Black Hand's power would take him all the way to Sicily—but at a terrible cost.

Unfolding a story rich with resonance in our own era, The Black Hand is fast-paced narrative history at its very best.

The gripping true story of the origins of the mafia in America—and the brilliant Italian-born detective who gave his life to stop it

*Film rights optioned by Paramount Studios, starring Leonardo DiCaprio*
Beginning in the summer of 1903, an insidious crime wave filled New York City, and then the entire country, with fear. The children of Italian immigrants were kidnapped, and dozens of innocent victims were gunned down. Bombs tore apart tenement buildings. Judges, senators, Rockefellers, and society matrons were threatened with gruesome deaths. The perpetrators seemed both omnipresent and invisible. Their only calling card: the symbol of a black hand. The crimes whipped up the slavering tabloid press and heated ethnic tensions to the boiling point. Standing between the American public and the Black Hand's lawlessness was Joseph Petrosino. Dubbed the "Italian Sherlock Holmes," he was a famously dogged and ingenious detective, and a master of disguise. As the crimes grew ever more bizarre and the Black Hand's activities spread far beyond New York's borders, Petrosino and the all-Italian police squad he assembled raced to capture members of the secret criminal society before the country's anti-immigrant tremors exploded into catastrophe. Petrosino's quest to root out the source of the Black Hand's power would take him all the way to Sicily—but at a terrible cost.

Unfolding a story rich with resonance in our own era, The Black Hand is fast-paced narrative history at its very best.

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  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 13, 2017
    Talty (Black Irish) spins a gripping tale in this true crime account of one man’s crusade to combat organized crime in early-20th-century New York City. His hero is Joseph Petrosino, one of the first Italian-Americans hired by the New York Police Department, who ultimately sacrificed his life in an effort to defeat the Black Hand, an Italian organized crime group that terrorized the city through its kidnappings of children, extortions, and murders. Talty anchors the arc of Petrosino’s career in 1883, when the man who became known as the Italian Sherlock Holmes was just 23 years old. His diligence and extraordinary memory led to a rapid ascent within the force, and by 1904 he was leading a squad within the NYPD to combat the Black Hand. Petrosino was murdered while on assignment in Sicily in 1909; the depth of his impact and popularity was manifested by a turnout of over 250,000 people for his funeral. Talty’s fast-moving and well-constructed narrative gives the law enforcement hero and pioneer the recognition he deserves.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from February 15, 2017
    A thrilling tale of the "Italian Sherlock Holmes."Joseph Petrosino (1860-1909) started out at as a shoeshine boy and ran a garbage cart, but through a Tammany Hall connection, he got a job as a detective with the New York Police Department. Ostensibly the story of the mob and their uninhibited growth at the turn of the 20th century, Talty's (Hangman, 2014, etc.) book presents much more, narrating the desperate struggle of one group of immigrants, the Italians, trying to eke out a life and raise their children without fear of abuse. They sought acceptance but suffered due to the acts of a few of their number. The government was biased, the police were indifferent, and most immigrants struggled to find jobs. While the Black Hand crime organization terrorized the Italian community, police protection was ineffective, virtually nonexistent, and the Secret Service only protected the rich and powerful. As the terror spread beyond Italian communities, calls went out to jail, deport, or bar absolutely all Italians from entering America. Petrosino convinced the police commissioner to allow him to form an Italian Squad. It was only five men, but all were fluent in Sicilian, expert in disguises, and able to blend in sufficiently to learn the secrets of their quarry. In the first year, they halved child kidnappings, protection rackets, and bombings, with little support from fellow police. Petrosino was beyond remarkable, dedicated to his work, absolutely fearless, and furious at any who would pay the Black Hand's demands. The story of what he did almost single-handedly, as well as the systems he devised to do so, is fascinating, and the persecution, low pay, abuse, and ignorance of the immigrants' rich culture strike a chord close to home these days. Talty is an excellent storyteller, and this particular story is highly relevant as America's next set of immigrants struggles for acceptance.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    February 15, 2017

    Talty's (Empire of Blue Water) newest work suffers from hysteria overload and hero worship, neither of which provides any substantive information about the infamous Black Hand, or the "brilliant detective," Joseph Petrosino. There are no numbers, statistics, or real facts about the crimes, which are vaguely described through contemporary newspaper sources that sound much more like rumors than reporting. Talty's research consists of an uncritical dive into early 20th-century newspaper sources, without ever questioning the impartiality (and anti-Italian bias) of the documents or their sources or verifying crimes, victims, or criminals anywhere else. All the reader is able to learn is that Petrosino was a savior to New York's Italian immigrant community, which was (apparently) completely wild with terror over an organized (or unorganized, we're not really sure) gang of murderers, bombers, extortionists, and kidnappers, until one of them murdered him while he was investigating in Sicily. This is the kind of book that gives popular history a bad name--an unabashedly uninformed recitation of mythologized stories presented as truth. VERDICT For those who don't want a critical eye aimed at their historical information.--Amelia Osterud, Carroll Univ. Lib., Waukesha, WI

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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The Black Hand
The Black Hand
The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History
Stephan Talty
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