Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob
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Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  2,007 ratings  ·  171 reviews

John Connoly and James "Whitey" Bulger grew up together on the streets of South Boston. Decades later, in the mid 1970's, they would meet again. By then, Connolly was a major figure in the FBI's Boston office and Whitey had become godfather of the Irish Mob. What happened next -- a dirty deal to being down the Italian mob in exchange for protection for Bulger -- would spir

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Paperback, 400 pages
Published May 1st 2002 by Publicaffairs Ltd. (first published May 1st 2000)
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Nancy Oakes
Mar 26, 2008 Nancy Oakes rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nancy by: history channel
Shelves: nonfiction
The scene is Boston, starting in the 1970s. The FBI has made it a top priority to clamp down on organized crime (in this case, the Mafia, populated by the Italians of North Boston). John Connolly, a very young FBI agent, is called to the Boston office to work in the Organized Crime unit. The idea was that if he could find someone to rat out the Italians, the FBI's job would be made much easier. Connolly begins to cultivate James (Whitey) Bulger, a former acquaintance from Connolly's old neighbor...more
Michaela
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Callie
The Southie of the 1970's and 1980's was run by a gangster named Jimmy "Whitey" Bulger, who took over the Winter Hill Gang after its leader, Howie Winter, was put behind bars. Whitey and his right-hand man, Stevie "The Rifleman" Flemmi, controlled everything that happened there, from gambling, to drugs, to weapons. Beyond a penchant for violence and a ruthless reputation, the thing that kept Whitey and Stevie out of trouble with the law was a close friendship with Michael Connelly, a high-rankin...more
Erin
Written by two Boston Globe reporters who covered the story for many years, the book details infamous mobster Whitey Bulger's decades-long deal with the FBI that allowed him to effectively rule Boston's underworld unchallenged.

It's one of the those stories that's so crazy you can't believe it actually happened. Super ambitious and morally compromised FBI agents make a deal with up-and-coming Irish mobsters to exchange information about the Italian mob in exchange for immunity from prosecution. T...more
Samantha
For any reader looking for a dramatic, engrossing true crime story, this one is fantastic. It is well organized, well written, and because of Whitey's recent capture, well timed! (well: the book has been edited since his capture; it originally came out well before.)

I won't say much except that the Bulger/Flemmi alliance with the Boston FBI is a story that should have been made up. How a relationship this corrupt could have happened, and happened for so long, is just gross/despicable/infuriating/...more
Grace
When I was in my early teens I had an unhealthy obsession with the mafia. I read every single book Mario Puzo wrote, The Way of the Wiseguy, Joey Pistone's Donnie Brasco among other mafia books. Reading Black Mass was like returning to an old friend, but I'm a no longer a pre-teen. I now know that besides just protecting their family, the people in the mafia actually killed some people who were not bad guys. See, as a kid I figured that they just killed each other, and since they were bad guys,...more
Vincent
I liked the book a lot and was quick to read. Probably not the best time for me to read a book about how corrupt the FBI is as I hate them and already know that they are corrupt. I would recommend it though, very detailed and really interesting.
Jacky Mac
Being from Boston, Whitey Bulgar has always been a 'local legend' and I have read several books about him and his life of crime. This book was the most articulate and detailed. It included shocking facts about corruption and misguided loyalty. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes crime or non-fiction books.
Cole
Wow. Just wow. It's so crazy to think that all of this shit really went down within the FBI. I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to others. Even those who wouldn't normally read a book from this genre. And I'm also keeping my fingers crossed that something like this doesn't ever happen again...
Erica Rosenberg
I haven't read anything like this in a while - essentially, the true story of the movie The Departed. Having loved the movie, I picked up the book. The story is truly insane - how this alliance between high powered members of the FBI and Boston's most notorious criminals continued over 3 decades…mind-blowing. The book takes us through the happenings of those 30 years in great detail, and most of it made sense (at some points, it was just a little too detailed). A good read but admittedly, I was...more
Lila
This is a very interesting (and very disturbing) story. The book format was a little too much for me--I would have preferred the same information in a long article.
CC
Written by Boston Globe reporters, Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neal, Black Mass is the true story of how members of Boston's Irish mob used their relationship with their childhood pal and newly annointed FBI agent, John Connolly, to become informants against their competition, the Italian mob. All the while, they continue with their own crime, corruption, and murder without reprimand, until a defense attorney, named Cardinale, exposes the decades long travesty.

All this has the potential to be explos...more
Anthony Luongo


Black Mass by Dick Lehr is about the relationship between the FBI and Whitey Bulger. The story opens in 1975 with a meeting near Wollaston Beach in Quincy. Two men from the old neighborhood, “Southie,” meet in darkness, neither one wanting to be seen with the other. Two men who had gone in completely different directions, coming together to see what each had to offer. John Connolly, a young, ambitious FBI agent in the Organized Crime Squad, who wanted to make his name taking down the Mafia and...more
Laurel
Well, I understand a whole lot more about the Irish Mob than I did a week ago, i.e. now I can be an informed follower of the Whitey Bulger trial. This was a really interesting, focused look at the four principal actors in the debacle: crime boss Whitey Bulger, his partner Stevie Flemmi, and the two FBI agents John Connolly and John Morris, who recruited them as informants but wound up practically becoming their partners in crime.

The fascinating thing about the web of corruption that unspools he...more
Sean Allen
The book I read is Black Mass “The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob.” This is a very fascinating book and makes you wonder what the FBI is doing behind our backs with mobs and gangsters. This book is mostly about Whitey Bulger and his contacts with Agent John Connolly of the FBI. But they also throw in some stories about the winter hill gang which Whitey was in. A little brief info on whitey is after being one of the FBI’s top wanted list he fled Massachusetts....more
Doug
Black Mass lays out, in eminently readable and often shocking detail, the incredible story of how Bulger and Steve Flemmi co-opted the Boston FBI, using their role as informants against the Mafia to eliminate their rivals and evade other local and federal law enforcement agencies. They even "tipped off" the Feds to crimes they committed (or ordered), casting suspicion on players they would like out of play. I read the first chapter thinking Black Mass must be a glamorized and highly speculative...more
Michael
Corruption...murder...extortion...racketeering... and those were the crimes committed by the FBI in this book! James "Whitey" Bulger, one of the FBI's most prominent informants in the Boston office who gets the protection he needs from the FBI, while unbeknownst to the entire crime syndicate in Boston he's dropping the dime on them, Italians and Irish alike...no loyalty from Whitey, but yet he demanded loyalty from his people. Seems like the FBI (Forever Bothering Italians) is more focused on br...more
Heather
Feb 13, 2013 Heather rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Heather by: Michael Flynn
Shelves: adult
This wasn't perfect, but I really liked it. The story itself is just completely fascinating. A few times, I had difficulty following it and felt like it wasn't going in chronological order, but I then realized that there were just so many details and so many facets to the overall story that they sometimes had to backtrack and start over from a different angle. My favorite part was the end, when the whole thing started to be uncovered.

I would love to read even more on this topic - I think it's i...more
Kevin Symmons
Not the type of books I usually enjoy but this one held my attention throughout. Having lived in the Greater Boston Area throughout the Whitey Bulger era I found this frighteningly refreshing, Especially since my wife's extended family were South Boston residents. I was glad to read the hideous Bulger "Robin Hood" myth debunked. This degenerate was a low-life, homicidal, sociopath who used violence, terror, and extortion to extract revenge and build a terrifying criminal empire. He did his best...more
Michelle
Mar 27, 2008 Michelle rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: true crime readers, nonfiction readers
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chaz
Oct 10, 2008 Chaz rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chaz by: jeff s
This is a very well researched and organized historical work on the corruption of the FBI and the Whitey Bulger/riflemen Flemmi gang. For those of us who live in the Boston area, and often hear in the news about the FBI's "most wanted" it clearly elucidates the brilliance and ruthlessness of Whitey.
At this point in time, with the financial market collapse, bureaucratic mobsters, and the slayings of civilians lives and pensions-- I can't deal with the negativity. My mind keeps wandering to such...more
Nicole
Anyone growing up in the Boston area would find this book about Whitey Bulger and his FBI connections interesting. At first I didn't think Connelly and Morris (FBI agents) were so bad - afterall, they were catching "the other" bad guys - the Italian mafia. My opinions changed after Bulger took the restaurant away from that couple wanting to fulfill their dream. The crimes got increasingly worse and the FBI continued to protect them. And, what's up with Bulger being invited to parties at their ho...more
Matt
This is just a very good book on several fronts. This is a solid 4 star in my book and for some would be even higher. If you want the guts of the Whitey Bulger story, and his cohorts (Flemmi, feds, etc.) this book lays it out in a very good read.

Lehr and O'Neil actually released "Whitey" recently which retells the Black Mass story and then tacks on the final chapters since Whitey was apprehended. If you have not read Black Mass, you may read “Whitey”, if you read Black Mass, you may read Whitey...more
David Palen
Absolutely fantastic read...the type of book that you can give to your friends who like to say things like "I don't like to read". Especially if they live in the Greater Boston area. Can't wait for the movie!
Lee
This book details the story of how the Boston FBI office was corrupted by Irish mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger. it detail how Bulger became a confidential informant of the FBI and managed to corrupt them, specifically agent John Connolly. it details the extraordinary lengths that Connolly and other in the office went to over the years to protect Bulger and his cohort Steve Flemmi. An excellent read. This book did not cover the subsequent trial and conviction of Connolly, at the end of the book i...more
Shawn Jaquiss
This title was an excellent examination of the FBI's corrupt relationship with two mob bosses in Boston from the late 60's through the early 90's. I gave it three stars for the lack of a table of characters as, particularly towards the end, there were so many names involved in the policing, prosecution or criminal activities that it was difficult to keep all of the players straight. I finally gave up and just pushed through to the end. It is a very well researched, well written book and I do rec...more
Brian
The myth of James J. "Whitey" Bulger is infamous in Boston, and "Black Mass" delves into the whole truth of his criminal history and accomplices, both criminal and law enforcement. While the story is well-known in Beantown, the details of the depths of FBI corruption and complicity with Bulger can still be surprising when laid out in black and white. And even though the book was first published in 2000, it remains relevant with the recent capture of Bulger. The book does suffer from some identit...more
Craig
I'm currently about half way thru the book. I've read Paddy Whacked and The Brothers Bulger, and this book has a readability that surpasses them. The author walks a fine line between fact-based narrative and over the top, slangy prose. I think the outrageousness of Bulger & Connolly's crimes negates the need to write too much flowery prose. A well done book that is heavy on the details of how the trio were brought down, with enough gory details about certain crimes to keep the reader interes...more
Abigail
Meh. I found the facts interesting, but the book read like an overinflated news story, which, in essence, I guess it was. The text was redundant and chock full of trite, meaningless cliches--often misused, I'm sorry to say. I had a difficult time concentrating on the book because it was written so poorly and had to keep myself on task to make it through. The story is remarkable and actually helped me to understand what it is about Boston that bothers me so much--a xenophilic society it is not--b...more
Sam Norton
What does it say about me that the part that made me the angriest was when Whitey and Flemmi extort the Rakes' business right out from under them? To me, that was so much worse than anything else they did, even the murders. But the Rakes were totally innocent in the matter, and eventually Mr. Rakes is found guilty of perjury because he was too threatened by Bulger and Flemmi to testify against them. And I can't really blame them. This book made me about as angry as I've been in a long time while...more
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Dick Lehr is a journalist who received a BA from Harvard in 1976.
More about Dick Lehr...
Judgment Ridge: The True Story Behind the Dartmouth Murders The Underboss: The Rise and Fall of a Mafia Family The Fence: A Police Cover-up Along Boston's Racial Divide Whitey: The Life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss Whitey and the FBI: The mobster and the agent who crossed the line

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