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Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia
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Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  1,736 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
Hailed in Italy as the best book ever written about the mafia in any language, Cosa Nostra is a fascinating, violent, and darkly comic account that reads like fiction and takes us deep into the inner sanctum of this secret society where few have dared to tread.In this gripping history of the Sicilian mafia, John Dickie uses startling new research to reveal the inner workin ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 21st 2005 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 2004)
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Christopher Ashley
Sep 24, 2007 Christopher Ashley rated it really liked it
surprisingly thorough and readable history of the mafia in sicily. shame they had to blow up all those fiat 500s.
Panos Maris
Nov 10, 2007 Panos Maris rated it it was amazing
A comprehensive and telling account of the mafia, this book takes effort in targeting the exact inception of this vague and shadowy group. It's also a slap to the face to all my Italian peers who attribute mafiosi behavior to the mainland, when clearly it originated amongst their islander counterpart. Any historian who appreciates meticulous writing will surely find wealth in this accurate but often grotesque text.
Mari Biella
May 09, 2015 Mari Biella rated it it was amazing
The word ‘mafia’ is known to everyone; and yet not many people have a very clear idea of what it is. Mention the mafia, and most people probably think of the American Mafia (though this is in fact an offshoot of a decidedly Sicilian tree), or a scene from The Godfather. The truth, as John Dickie shows in this excellent account, is both more interesting, and more complicated and harrowing, than fiction.

Nobody knows quite when or how the mafia came into being; even the origin of the name is now ho
Apr 22, 2015 Ruth rated it really liked it
My big question is this: what made Giovanni Falcone and Paulo Borsellino (both born and bred in Palermo) become heroic fighters for justice when others born in the same time and place turned to violent crime? Who lit that spark? Where did they get such courage from? The courage to continue on a path even though they knew it would lead to a violent death.

This is a fabulous book: a detailed account of the development of a criminal organisation from early 19th century to 2006 (the capture of Berna
Liam Berry
Jul 28, 2015 Liam Berry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I was lucky enough to be able to read the first half of this excellent account of the history of the Sicillian Mafia while visiting Palermo. Walking past locations key to stories told in the book added a certain vibrancy to the text and indeed to the city itself.
I was genuinely shocked by the brutality of this book. The concept of the Industry of Violence as a tool for political control is an amazing notion but also an obvious one once it has been outlined in effect, and the relentless killing d
Mammamia!!!! Da habe ich mich so auf dieses Buch gefreut, denn seit dem Tod Falcones habe ich mich mit dem Thema nicht mehr ausführlich beschäftigt und ich wollte nach dem Film "Il divo" wieder mal Up to date im Who is Who der Mörder, Wirtschschaftsverbrecher und honorigen Leute sein.

Nach 150 Seiten musste ich das Buch vorerst mal weglegen. Wie kann man derart langweilig über ein so spannendes Thema schreiben und dann auch noch die Wiederholungen, die Unübersichtlichkeit.....grauslich!!! - Ich b
Gerald Sinstadt
Prefacing Dickie's masterly history is a lengthy disclaimer that can only have been written by the publisher's lawyers. The caution is understandable. Dickie names names by the hundreds, many of them linked to crimes of extortion and murder.

From its origins in the 1860's up to the Berlusconi (nothing alleged in his case) era, Dickie portrays the Sicilian Mafia as an organisation that has structure but no overall shape. Mafioso, he argues, is a state of mind. But there are initiation ceremonies,
Apr 01, 2012 Kiragu rated it liked it
To say Cosa Nostra is well done is not enough. We are talking about tracing Mafia in the late 1800s in Sicily, its exportation to America in the early 1900s and its development since. You will not find the climax of Mario Puzo's The Godfather because Cosa Nostra is a chronological trace. John Dickie may have set out to educate through his book and not to thrill. However a story of mafiosi and mafioso will always be a tale of excitement.

The lowlight is that Dickie touches much of much which mean
Jul 26, 2011 Andrew rated it it was amazing
True Crime is my guilty pleasure; the majority of what I read is sensationalist tripe; but I do love it so. My ex wife refers to it as 'dick-lit'

This on the other hand is a well researched, bona fide history book coupled with all the joys and readability of a good thriller. It looks at the Sicilian mafia from it's inception right up to the modern day. Some of these Sicilian guys make Jon Gotti look like a choir boy and think nothing of assassinating High Court Judges or Politicians; riveting stu
Oct 13, 2010 Leslievenson rated it did not like it
Pass me the pasta
Aug 20, 2008 Tyas rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I've just got the updated version. This is the most authoritave book on the Sicilian Mafia available in English.

The following here is my Indonesian review on the book, first posted in another site :

Tentunya ingatan akan trilogi The Godfather belum lekang dari ingatan kita. Trilogi tentang mafia yang banyak dipuja-puji di seluruh belahan dunia itu, ternyata disambut dingin di Italia. Banyak yang mengatakan bahwa yang dijabarkan film itu tentang mafia – terutama ketika menyangkut Sisilia – tidakl
Dvd (buonanotte popolo)

Un bel saggio su uno degli argomenti più noti e allo stesso tempo confusi fra quelli che riguardano questo contorto e indecifrabile Paese: la mafia siciliana.

L'autore parte da lontano, illustrando le ipotesi più probabili circa la nascita dell'onorata società negli anni immediatamente successivi all'impresa dei Mille e il suo sviluppo nei decenni fino ai giorni nostri (2003), sempre all'ombra dello Stato italiano e sempre sopravvivendo fra alti e bassi con camaleontica capacità. Come noto, la so
Mika Auramo
Jan 09, 2012 Mika Auramo rated it it was amazing
Teos on suomennettu nimellä Cosa Nostra. Sisilian mafian historia. Kirja on vaikuttava lukuelämys kaikille niille, jotka ovat kiinnostuneet Sisilian mafiasta, sen synnystä ja historiasta. Dickie tekee perustavanlaatuista työtä kertoessaan, välillä hyvinkin pikkutarkasti, mafian vaiheista aina 2000-luvulle saakka.

Kirja ei päästä lukijaansa helpolla. Jokainen luku on luettava huolella, sillä eri mafia- ja poliisipäälliköiden osuuden limittyvät eri luvuissa, ja näkökulma tapahtumiin vaihtelee taido
Nov 16, 2010 Valetta rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: storia, mafia, saggio
Un libro ambizioso, che si propone di ripercorrere la storia della mafia dalle origini ai giorni nostri, ricostruendone le motivazioni, le spinte motrici, i complessi meccanismi relazionali che la governano e che ne segnano al contempo l'evoluzione. Un'opera apprezzabile perché non si ferma ad una mera cronologia di eventi ma si spinge oltre indagandone le cause materiali e psicologiche e le narra in modo coinvolgente e accattivante. Il singolo personaggio o un particolare evento servono all'aut ...more
Apr 27, 2014 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am giving this excellently written, informative book top rating even though I have only read just over 70% of it ... twice over because it was so fascinating.

John Dickie has written a clear, insightful history of the Mafia, which is highly enjoyable to read. As I read it, I kept wondering whether by exposing so much knowledge of this sinister organisation, Dickie risks suffering the terrible fate of the two Italian investigators, Falcone and Borselino, who gave their lives in the fight against
Oct 29, 2011 Branimir rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mafia
When I started reading "Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia" I wanted to get a general understanding of the ways and history of Cosa Nostra and the Italian mafia as a whole. Having finished the book, I could not imagine finding a better starting point to do this.

John Dickey goes to great depths in his analysis in order to provide a research-based, rich and still very down-to-Earth description of the Sicilian mafia history (from its inception in the late 19th century till its struggles d
Apr 30, 2008 Giuliana rated it did not like it
Shelves: reviews
This hefty book is a history of the Sicilian Mafia from its beginning to modern days.
The first part is interesting and contained lots of details I had not read anywhere else. However, the book's unforgivable flaw comes out pretty early. The author seems to attribute the rise of the Mafia to the incompetence of the political system and the Italian police. Although I tend never to underestimate incompetence as a cause for all evils (especially for Italians), this outlook is fundamentally naive or,
Aug 17, 2012 Noora rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tietokirjat
Periaatteessa mielenkiintoinen kirja, mutta käytännön toteutus ei aivan yllä sille tasolle, jonka esimerkiksi takakansitekstin perusteella saa. Vaikka kuinka yritin keskittyä kirjaan, lähtivät ajatukset harhailemaan hyvin nopeasti jonnekin aivan muualle, ilmiö, joka omalla kohdallani tapahtuu hyvin harvoin. Aihe on mielenkiintoinen, samoin tapahtumat, mutta teksti ei vain suostu asettumaan järkeväksi, hahmotettavaksi kokonaisuudeksi. En tiedä, oliko syy kirjoitustyylissä vai missä, mutta asiaa e ...more
Josh Hamacher
This book is organized roughly chronologically, from the (theorized) beginnings of the mafia to the early 2000s. Almost all of the content is centered on notable figures within the mafia rather than "the mafia" as a whole.

I liked that Dickie is very clear about what is known and what is theorized, and how he stresses that most of what is known is based on the testimony of pentiti.

Unfortunately I just couldn't get into this book. My biggest sticking point was that the book quickly became repetiti
Jim Rimmer
Jan 03, 2012 Jim Rimmer rated it really liked it
Having previously read Delizia!: The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food I know John Dickie is very thorough in the manner than he tackles subjects and Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia is no exception. It is through the great arc of history, glorious cast of protagonists, rough hewn landscapes and associated minutiae that the full drama of the mafia finds its power. This book needs to tick along at a rollicking pace to fully cover the 150 or so years of brutality and barbarit ...more
Jul 11, 2011 Janina rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
The topic of Cosa Nosta is obviously a very interesting one and still very obscure. But after the first 100 or so pages of this book, I had to stop for a while. It was so utterly boring! What was also a problem for me were all the Italian names which confused me a lot. I couldn't remember who was who and if I ha read this name before or not. After some time I picked it up again and was able to read through it that time. But I guess that it is enough to read the last 50 (plus minus) pages about t ...more
Jan 30, 2010 TheTravelEditor rated it really liked it
The author of Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia, John Dickie, is a senior lecturer in Italian studies at University College, London, and brings his considerable research skills and academic expertise to bear in his history of the criminal organisation. He traces the roots of the secret society back to 1860 and the protection rackets that sprang up in Palermo’s lemon groves and the thriving industry which began around it. Dickie never baulks at depicting the Mafia’s grisly deeds and qu ...more
Dec 12, 2009 Takipsilim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Currently the best historical overview of the most popular Mafia organization. Starting from it's turbulent origins in mid - 19th Century Sicily to it's current power, the author depicts the highs and lows of Cosa Nostra's blood-soaked career - on how a loose group of peasants encroached into the highest reaches of Italian politics and society and attained near-indomitable power, and how it's influence extended to the United States with the wave of immigration that transpired in the country duri ...more
Mar 06, 2011 Andrew rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011, history
This book gave a remarkable insight into the brutal machinery of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra. Having read numerous books on the US Mafia, I found this book informative and thought provoking. It dispels many of the romantic notions many hold of the Sicilian Mafia and even Sicily itself.

The brutality of the mafia is well depicted and at times shocking, harrowing and disturbing. Equally disturbing is the depth to which mafioso have penetrated the political and commercial machinery of Italy and, to an
Carl Russo
Feb 23, 2014 Carl Russo rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mafia-bookshelf
John Dickie deserves every accolade he has received for this masterly history of the Sicilian Mafia. A wealth of research materials informed this work and the story is complicated, but Dickie's narrative flows smoothly.

It's a book fat enough to contain a thorough account of Cosa Nostra's rural origins in the 19th century, a period of violent social and political upheaval, and the group's epic rise to dominate politics and the drug trade.

The book's numerous editions and foreign translations are t
Jun 06, 2012 Alberto rated it it was amazing
An immense read. Extraordinarily readable, captivating, incredibly interesting and at times moving (the chapter beginning with the words of Rosaria Schifani at the funerals after the Capaci bombing had me in tears now as they did back then - then as an Italian twenty-something in complete shock at those dreadful events. This really should be a compulsory read for everybody in Italy to get a picture and a much better understanding of where it all began all those years ago with the collusion betwe ...more
Daniel Pitcher
May 15, 2012 Daniel Pitcher rated it did not like it
This is without a doubt a very detailed account & researched book about the Mafia, but I had to give up about three quarters of the way through. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly why I found it such a slog, but it might have been the sheer, overwhelming amount of detail. There were so many names (Italian, obviously) that it was difficult to remember who was who & who had done what.
The opening chapters describing the beginnings of Cosa Nostra were very interesting, but for me it soon bec
What a difficult book.
I have such an ambivalent feeling about this one. I find the history, rise and fall and rise of the Italian mafia very interesting. Very. And the book is not bad. But it is incredibly hard to follow. All the names and the geography is very confusing to me. I should have started drawing a map with all the people in it. I am not sure it is the authors fault, if there even is a way of telling this story with less confusion/complexity. I am not sure. You would probably have to
La Stamberga dei Lettori
Un libro ambizioso, che si propone di ripercorrere la storia della mafia dalle origini ai giorni nostri, ricostruendone le motivazioni, le spinte motrici, i complessi meccanismi relazionali che la governano e che ne segnano al contempo l'evoluzione. Un' opera apprezzabile perché non si ferma ad una mera cronologia di eventi ma si spinge oltre indagandone le cause materiali e psicologiche e le narra in modo coinvolgente e accattivante...
Katie D'Angelo
Nov 27, 2011 Katie D'Angelo rated it liked it
Informative book that takes a fairly unbiased look at the history of the mafia. In order to cover the history this book breaks it down into short stories about specific times and events and tries to place them in a context to tie the whole book together but for me it just became confusing and a little tiring. The book did not allow for a lot of character analysis so I always felt disconnected. I thought the book was a very interesting read but overall I thought I would like this more than I did.
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“Mafiosi, for Franchetti, were entrepreneurs in violence, specialists who had developed what today would be called the most sophisticated business model in the marketplace. Under the leadership of their bosses, mafia bands ‘invested’ violence in various commercial spheres in order to extort protection money and guarantee monopolies. This was what he called the violence industry. As Franchetti wrote, [in the violence industry] the mafia boss . . . acts as capitalist, impresario and manager. He unifies the management of the crimes committed . . . he regulates the way labour and duties are divided out, and controls discipline amongst the workers. (Discipline is indispensable in this as in any other industry if abundant and constant profits are to be obtained.) It is the mafia boss’s job to judge from circumstances whether the acts of violence should be suspended for a while, or multiplied and made fiercer. He has to adapt to market conditions to choose which operations to carry out, which people to exploit, which form of violence to use.” 1 likes
“Tutti colpevoli, nessuno colpevole,’ as the Italian saying has it: ‘If everyone is guilty, no one is guilty.” 1 likes
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