This analysis of the crisis of Italy's parliamentary and party system by a learned and thought-provoking professor of European studies at The Johns Hopkins University Bologna Center provides an account of the turbulent politics of 1992-94. That period saw the "revenge" of the magistrates against the clientelistic political system set up by the Christian Democrats and their allies, the collapse of the Christian Democratic Party, and the rise of Berlusconi's Forza Italia. But McCarthy's ambitions go far beyond this: he tries to explain how the post-Mussolini system emerged, to throw light on the complex relations between the Vatican (to which he attributes a decisive influence) and the faction-ridden, Christian Democrats to show that the role of the United States in Italian politics was less constraining than received opinion has it, and to examine the reasons for the relative failure of the Italian Communist Party. McCarthy has many shrewd things to say about the corruption of the state and its relations with a rapidly changing Italian society. For all its lucidity, insight, and originality, this would have been an even better book if it had been longer and less compressed.