Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History” as Want to Read:
The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  1,467 ratings  ·  189 reviews
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

*Soon to be a major motion picture 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
Hardcover, 298 pages
Published April 25th 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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 The Black Hand, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Black Hand

In Cold Blood by Truman CapoteHelter Skelter by Vincent BugliosiThe Stranger Beside Me by Ann RuleThe Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonColumbine by Dave Cullen
Best True Crime
1,093 books — 1,598 voters
The Godfather by Mario PuzoGangster by Lorenzo CarcaterraThe Sicilian by Mario PuzoDonnie Brasco by Joseph D. PistoneWiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi
Best Mafia Books
207 books — 337 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,467 ratings  ·  189 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History
Heidi The Reader
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A non-fiction read about an extraordinary man who became the first Italian-American detective in the New York Police Department and his battle against The Black Hand.

Petrosino was "the greatest Italian detective in the world," declared the New York Times, the "Italian Sherlock Holmes," according to popular legend back in the old country. introduction, xiv.

Joseph Petrosino was a scrappy boy who grew into a determined man. He dropped out of school after sixth grade and began to work as a shoe shin
Jill Hutchinson
Dec 11, 2018 marked it as gave-up-on-it
I dnf this book. It really was not a poorly written book but for some reason it just did not hold my interest. With so many books on my tbr shelf, I decided to put it aside and move on.
Detective Petrosino’s fight against criminal enterprise in New York

At the beginning of the 20th century, Italian immigrants were arriving in large numbers to New York City dreaming big in the new world, but faced hostility from other citizens like German and Irish immigrants. They were also terrorized, extorted, and murdered by a criminal organization known as the “Black Hand”, which was eventually traced to mafia gang operating from Sicily. Their main target were the Italian community in NY th
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Only read half of this book. Kept thinking it was going to get better and more compelling but it never did. Too bad because I liked the premise and wanted to learn more about Petrosino, but it was just too dull.
patrick Lorelli
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing

First, let me say that this is a history book as well as a book about one man’s fight against “The Black Hand”. Over the years reading about the history of the Mafia I knew that when it first arrived in the U.S. it was called the Black Hand. I had also read just small little references about Joseph Petrosino who was a detective in the N.Y. Police. He was the first Italian at a time when the police and fire were owned by the Irish. This was a time when the migration from southern Italy and Sicily
Brooke Nuzie
May 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
It’s probably not fair of me to review this because I didn’t finish it. I got about half way. I wanted to love it because its about such an interesting time in history, but I’m a character person and this was written like facts, not a story.

This is blasphemous... but I think the movie will be better 🙈
Megan Richardson
Nov 06, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
The premise sounded interesting, but I just could not get into this book. It was not very well written and for a non-fiction book gave way too much credence to what might have happened or what the main character might have felt. If I wanted that, I'd read a novel.
Apr 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Would recommend reading over the Audiobook.
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is fun history, told engagingly with an excellent combination of biography, mafia history, and crime investigation. As the book is not a biography of Joe Petrosino, the author only shares what is needed to understand the man, public opinions of Italian immigrants in late 19th century and early 20th, and what shaped Petrosino into the individual force for justice that he became. Petrosino holds a unique position in the pantheon of heroic American lawmen, being the first and principle It ...more
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies
The Black Hand
The Epic War between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History

by Stephen Talty

The Black Hand is the symbol of fear which spread across New York and Pennsylvania at the turn of the century. One single Italian, Joseph Petrosino, doggedly pursued the order of secret criminal society. They originally terrorized their own: other Italians. Eventually they became so powerful that they were feared across the country. Petrosino became famous for tracking the
Julia Garcia
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Stephan Talty's "The Black Hand" is the story of the Italian Mafia and the Italian detective who gave his life to try and stop it.

Known as "the Italian Sherlock Holmes", Joseph Petrosino was an Italian immigrant who grew up in America in a time when Italians were looked down on. "The Black Hand" is the story of the Italian struggle in early America, the rise of "The Black Hand" and the heroic man that was so loyal to America and his fellow Italians, that he would stop at nothing to see the Mafi
Try to guess. Why. Again.

Yes. Always him.
Mike Billington
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There was a time when Joseph Petrosino was the most famous lawman in the United States.
There was a good reason for that. In the early years of the 20th Century The Black Hand - a loosely organized group of some of the most vicious gangs in the country - was committing horrific crimes on an epic scale. Petrosino was among the very few police officers willing to stand against them and he put literally hundreds of Black Hand members in jail.
His exploits against these criminals - who murdered men, w
Nathan Alderman
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
In turn-of-the-century New York City, bursting at the seams with immigrants and industry, a sinister evil began preying on the new arrivals the city's high and mighty shunned and ignored. Murders, bombings, and horrific kidnappings began in the tenements of terrified Italian immigrants and spread their grip across the entire country – the work of a formless, decentralized criminal network that called itself the Black Hand. As innocent people suffered and the city government largely yawned, one e ...more
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nyc, finished-2019
Meh. It was ok. It would have been a lot better as a straight history of the mafia rather than focusing on one Italian American detective. There was too much detail about this one detective's life - like the author felt compelled to include all his research into the final book. I didn't need to read an entire chapter about his funeral. Yawn. Two or three paragraphs would have been plenty. I would not recommend this book to anyone. The only positive thing I got from reading this book was a desire ...more
Dean Jobb
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Black Hand is a classic, against-all-odds story with a narrative drive as relentless as its central character, New York detective Joseph Petrosino. Talty’s vivid storytelling and deep research recreate a forgotten crime wave and bring to life a rule-breaking, hero-cop on a mission to protect his Italian countrymen.
William DuFour
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
An interesting book about a little known detective who with his grit, tenacity and innovation helped end the plague on immigrants by a vicious criminal/anarchist organization. This book should be read by every law enforcement person on how to defeat such organizations.
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Black Hand is the true story of Joseph Petrosino, one of New York City greatest detective, and is war on the criminal society Black Hand. A very engrossing and captivating narrative in every page.
Nov 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Crazy story and Petrosino is fascinating but reading this book feels like Talty knew it was going to be made into a movie before he even finished writing it.
Jul 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this! I'm married to an Italian, and this was really fascinating.
This book had the potential to be so much better. The story is interesting and one that I didn't know - and true crime/crime syndicate stories are usually favorites of mine. However, the book was, unfortunately, not well (or consistently) written. Rather than go deep into a few examples of the Black Hand crime and Petrosino , the author throws out a seemingly unending number of anecdotal stories. The surface level story telling makes it tough to be invested in the book, fully appreciate the Blac ...more
Samuel Tyler
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
History is a fascinating subject to study as there is so much of it, so why do we keep going back to the same places? I feel like I have walked the steps of Julius Caesar and married at least two of Henry XIII’s wives; so often I have read about them. There are countless other tales out there to learn about that may be more obscure, but are just as exciting. I don’t know much about New York around 1900, but after reading ‘‘The Black Hand’’ by Stephan Talty I now know it was a violent place to li ...more
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: organized-crime
A systematic study of the Black Hand is extraordinarily difficult. Talty orients his book towards the life of Joe Petrosino, one of America's most famous policemen. Although Talty clearly prefers a larger study of the Black Hand, the biographical under-story keeps the book organized and moving. Talty decorates his biography with some of the Black Hand's most heinous crimes, although the crimes he selects for his book may appear stand-offish to the rest of the book or creating a kaleidoscope of i ...more
Shawn Birss
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018-nonfiction
There is a good story contained in this book. Unfortunately, it wavers between a steady narrative written in the style of a novel, which is when it is at its best, and a journalistic look at the history surrounding the rise of The Black Hand, the precursor to the Italian Mafia in New York.

Were it written more as the novelization I wish it were, this would be the story of Italian detective Joseph Petrosino, and his fight against rising organized crime even as he experiences and witnesses acts of
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good book - it does not glorify or romanticize this lowest element of Italian culture - the Mafia, Black Hand - or whatever you wish to call it. Both my parents were first generation Italian Americans, my Mom from upstate NY and my Dad from WA State. Both had very different experiences concerning the subject of this book but my Dad's family changed the spelling for their last name to distance themselves from the discrimination (which always confused me because my paternal Grandfather would blow ...more
Sam Nigro
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
ARTICLE-BOOK REVIEW: The Black Hand--the epic war between a brilliant detective and the deadliest secret society in American history
by Stephan Talty, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
Boston New York, 2017, 298 pages.
by Samuel A. Nigro, MD, retired psychiatrist, 2017

The book is much more than a historical description of Italian immigration and dramatic factual description of a genuine virtuous hero. It promotes deeper thinking about civilizations in general. This book is about Joseph Petrosino, a ge
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hollywood has spent nearly a century glorifying Organized Crime, specifically the Mafia. While I won't lie and say that I am not a fan of those films and TV programs (I am), I think it's criminal that more stories like those of Giuseppe Petrosino are not told with regularity. As opposed to the glorified Godfathers, the Black Hand was an utterly evil scourge preying on the poor, isolated Italians who had recently immigrated to New York in the early 20th Century. I was also amazed at how instituti ...more
I am not a fan of all non-fiction,but this was a good one.It was not dry at all.I read what I can abt Italian immigrants to NYC in early 1900's since my ancestors came over at that time.I have read abt Petrosino before and he is quite a hero to the Italians and Sicilians of that time. He was the first ever Italian Police Officer. He was proud and determined and could not be "had". He worked his way up from a laborer cleaning streets to Det. in NYC Police Dept. In the end,the Black Hand did have ...more
May 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Had high hopes for this one. It's billed as a "epic" but an epic it is not. Talty does a solid job of researching an interesting chapter in the annals of early organized crime, as well as the darker history of immigration in the early 1900s. The story, however, lack drive, and ultimately is dominated more by the exploits of the horrific criminal organization than the accomplishments of the Joseph Petrosino, the brilliant detective of the title.
Ryan Rauber
This probably should have been called "Joseph Petrosino" instead of the Black Hand, the book was more a biography of his life than the story of the early rise of the mafia in the US. Tough to get into this book. There's an interesting story in there, and I'm curious as to what the upcoming movie version does. But the casual reader will probably have trouble sitting through this.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Family Corleone
  • Army of Evil: A History of the SS
  • Knife
  • The Voting Booth
  • Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf
  • Monster City: Murder, Music, and Mayhem in Nashville’s Dark Age
  • Beauty's Daughter, Monster, The Gimmick: Three Plays
  • The Greatest: My Own Story
  • Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act
  • Trailblazer: A Pioneering Journalist's Fight to Make the Media Look More Like America
  • That's Not Funny, That's Sick: The National Lampoon and the Comedy Insurgents Who Captured the Mainstream
  • Road Work: Among Tyrants, Heroes, Rogues, and Beasts
  • The Eighth Dwarf
  • Disaster at Stalingrad: An Alternate History
  • Frida Kahlo: An Illustrated Biography
  • The Eleventh Man
  • Green Arrow, Vol. 2: Here There Be Dragons
  • Shades of Magic Vol. 3: The Rebel Army
See similar books…
Stephan Talty is the New York Times bestselling author of six acclaimed books of narrative nonfiction, as well as the Abbie Kearney crime novels. Originally from Buffalo, he now lives outside New York City.

Talty began as a widely-published journalist who has contributed to the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Men’s Journal, Time Out New York, Details, and many other publications. He is the author of t

Related Articles

We asked Alice Bolin, author of Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession, and journalist-turned-crime novelist Laura...
96 likes · 46 comments
“The writer H. P. Lovecraft would later provide an example of the animosity Americans felt toward the newcomers in a letter to a friend in which he described immigrants from Italy crowded into the Lower East Side as creatures who “could not by any stretch of the imagination be call’d human.” Instead, “they were monstrous and nebulous adumbrations of the pithecanthropoid and amoebal; vaguely moulded from some stinking viscous slime of earth’s corruption, and slithering and oozing in and on the filthy streets or in and out of doorways in a fashion suggestive of nothing but infesting worms or deep-sea unnamabilities.” 1 likes
More quotes…