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Bloodlines: The Rise and Fall of the Mafia’s Royal Family

by Lee Lamothe and Antonio Nicaso

If Tony Soprano had moved to Canada in the 1970s he would have found a congenial environment for made guys. Certainly he could have graduated from whack jobs to expensive manicures. As Bloodlines makes clear, the consummate genius of the Canadian-based Caruana-Cuntrera “royal family” of crime was its early grasp of the international criminal cartels’ need for financial services, particularly money laundering, mule trafficking, and cash for spreading corruption. Mobsters felt safe in Canada – attention-getting bloody-handedness was left to other, coarser operatives in overcrowded climates; in Canada, “men of honour” met for coffee at Tim Horton’s.

Canada’s paramount attraction was location, location, and location: Montreal, Toronto, and Windsor form a natural, relatively uncontested corridor for the shipment of narcotics to the States. And Canadians proved to be a helpful people: for at least 20 years Canada’s archaic banking legislation allowed burly guys in sunglasses to greet tellers with garbage bags full of cash, no questions asked. At the same time, law enforcement agencies weren’t co-ordinated, and Canada’s general attitude towards the greatest world trade organization ever known boiled down to a sniffy couldn’t-happen-here posture. As the authors note, “it was harder to import cheese under government regulations than it was to bring a suitcase of cash into the country.”

Focusing on the Caruana-Cuntrera outfit, Bloodlines follows the activities of several interrelated Syndicate family groups over a period of 50 years, in Rome, Canada, New York, London, Caracas, Rio de Janeiro, and Aruba. Commanding but largely colourless, the book reads like an intelligence dossier: it offers a meticulously detailed spreadsheet of events but (perhaps deliberately, given the book’s scope) provides little insight into the culture of mob mayhem. Issues such as the Montreal mafia’s relations with francophones go unexamined, and very obvious social questions about the role of mob-marrying women go the way of their coral-coloured bridesmaid’s outfits. All in all, then, a reference book for Tony Soprano’s therapist – back story for the guys who don’t say much but whose motto might be, “How I do it is how I do it.”