Disintegrating Bloodline Part 1, The by Louis T. Bruno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Chris Mangini, a young, powerful representative for the Mafia, has been hired by a gang-plagued high school to use his clout and muscle to pull the gangs into order. Corralling the rampant violence roaming the halls is a request Chris takes well to, and one fateful morning as he holds court in the high school cafeteria, he takes a bullied young student under his wing despite the misgivings of his faithful cohorts.
The young student, A.J., jumps eagerly into the arms of his dangerous new friends who not only offer protection and status, but they also lead him to cold, hard cash in amounts never before seen by the boy. This is where A.J. finds his crisis. He is a boy who both loves and respects his parents, and when the nature of his new lifestyle is questioned by them, the 16 year old is faced with the fateful decision--to hold onto what is left of his innocence, or to become the new favorite of Chris Mangini.
This tale, which is set in the 90's, is swift paced and full of dialogue and violence very reminiscent of the urban crime films from that period. Many of the scenes spare no dirty detail and the reader is immersed into this world of foul breath, angry sweat, smelly bathrooms, and the bloody reality of vicious assault and murder. A.J. is moved from scene to scene as he helps collect tribute from young gang leaders, deepens his bond with his new mentor Chris Mangini, and feels the throes of first love.
I especially found moving a scene between A.J. and his father over the meaning of what it is to be decent and moral. It's a poignant snapshot of a fraying thread between a loving father and son, and the war between spiritual ideals and the practicality of animal instinct.
Chris Mangini is also a fascinating character and as the story moves along, we catch glimpses of his past which helped to form his alternately brutal and magnanimous nature. He is a man who can kill with his bare hands, but at the same time show mercy to a bullied boy.
If there is a flaw to this story, it is far too short and I was left wanting to know so much more about A.J. and Chris. I would have also liked to have seen an expanded look into the various gangs that A.J. encounters rather than just a simple stereotype presented by the gang's leader. We do see glimpses into the minds of the doomed, their confused thoughts and resignations, and it served to whet my appetite for more.
In which case, I am happy to see this slim tale labeled as "Part 1".
I wholeheartedly recommend this colorful, violent tale to any fans of urban thrillers, organized crime, or unflinching coming of age tales. Fair warning though for the faint of heart--the dialogue is rough and raw, and the violence is harsh and unromantic.
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