Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob” as Want to Read:
Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

by
3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  2,240 ratings  ·  185 reviews
John Connolly and James "Whitey" Bulger grew up together on the streets of South Boston. Decades later, in the mid-1970s, 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 bring down the Italian mob in exchange for protection for Bulger -- would spir ...more
Audio, Abridged, 6 pages
Published June 1st 2001 by HarperAudio (first published May 1st 2000)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Black Mass, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Black Mass

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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.
Bridget
This was entertaining but at the end of the day I find stories like The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Impostor more interesting than Whitey Bulger stories. That being said, I do understand why people are so fascinated by this all and I thought one of the most interesting questions of all was brought up at the very end (view spoiler) ...more
Brooke
Don't go in thinking this is a bio of Whitey Bulger. It is definitely not. It is one crazy story, though. I didn't know anything about Bulger and associates and their role as FBI informants. In this book you've got FBI vs state troopers, Irish mob vs Italian mob. Who is informing for whom? Is anyone here to be trusted? Probably not.

I think the book gets fairly bogged down in listing dates and names. These are real people, and some of them have very similar names (yes, there are two Kevins). It c
...more
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...
Heather
Growing up in the Boston area, I'd always heard about Whitey Bulger, even as a kid. However, it was always the tale of Whitey Bulger, because by the time he was on the run in 1995, I was only 11. Even as an adult, having learned more about his life as a gangster, I still didn't fully comprehend the level of scandal involved with Bulger's ties to the FBI. Black Mass lays it all out there, in great detail. Sometimes I failed to accurately keep track of the Irish mobsters, Italian Mafia and FBI age ...more
Erin D

Review of Black Mass

The novel, Black Mass, Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill depict the illegal relationship between two FBI agents, John Connolly and John Morris and two mobsters, James “Whitey” Bulger and Stephen Flemmi. The authors describe how Connolly and Morris let Bulger and Felmmi escape prosecution for incredible crimes. To illustrate, on page 203 Morris allegedly tells the mobsters at a dinner party, “You can do anything you want as long as you don’t clip anyone.” The authors also describe
...more
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.
Sabot
I did not care for the sensationalist style of writing which was used in this book. Though it purports to be a work of journalism, phrases such as the following are not uncommon:

"Stephen's little girl wandered into the kitchen to see what was going on [...] 'Isn't she cute?', Flemmi said. The gangster tousled her blond hair. The gun's hard metal caught the girl's attention, and she reached for it. Flemmi let her touch it, and the girl even put part of the gun in her mouth. 'It would be a sin fo
...more
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
Idonia
So glad I read this with book club. It reads almost like pulp fiction but the story is riveting and all the more intriguing because it is true. Our group discussed it at a local pub right in the heart of Southie steps from where the Bulgers grew up - perfect.
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
Craig Hayes
Well researched and thorough account of a disgraceful chapter in the history of the FBI. It is amazing how easily just tow FBI agents acted without oversight and enabled a murderer to act above the law in Boston for over 25 years.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster
  • The Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century
  • Takedown: The Fall of the Last Mafia Empire
  • Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano's Story of Life in the Mafia
  • Capone: The Life and World of Al Capone
  • "I Heard You Paint Houses": Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran & Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa
  • Brutal: The Untold Story of My Life Inside Whitey Bulger's Irish Mob
  • Murder Machine
  • The First Family: Terror, Extortion, Revenge, Murder, and the Birth of the American Mafia
  • Boss of Bosses: The FBI and Paul Castellano
  • The St. Valentine's Day Massacre: The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone
  • Mafia Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the Gambino Crime Family
  • Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the Gangster Life
  • Mr. Capone
  • Mississippi Mud: Southern Justice and the Dixie Mafia
  • Blood and Honor: Inside the Scarfo Mob--The Mafia's Most Violent Family
  • All Souls: A Family Story from Southie
  • Capone: The Man and the Era
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

Share This Book