Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic

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Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic

By Alexander Stille
Pantheon Books, 1995
467 pp. $27.50
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A riveting account of the often obstructed fight against the Sicilian Mafia and its system of corruption and drug trade, a system enforced by terror and murder, with tentacles abroad and links to Italian politics. By tenacious use of interviews and public accounts, Alexander Stille, a young and very able investigative reporter, pieces together the story and puts it in the context of post-Cold War Italian politics and the recent efforts to bring to justice a political class guilty of routine corruption. The willingness of Mafiosi to talk--at first only two of them and then an ever-widening stream--informed prosecutors in both Italy and the United States. The book has its heroes: judge Giovanni Falcone and prosecutor Paolo Borsellino, who finally and against huge odds uncovered the structure of the Cosa Nostra crime network and set in motion the first effective struggle against the criminals. The Mafia killed them both, but their deaths aroused an Italian public at last to press for a radical cleansing of this moral and financial morass. A fervently, lucidly written work of great importance.