Books: The Real Mafia


by Claire Sterling

Norton; 384 pages; $19.95

Italians call the Sicilian Mafia "the Octopus," and justly so. As investigative reporter Claire Sterling shows, its tentacles have branched from Palermo over the past 30 years to get a global stranglehold on the $100 billion heroin market -- and a major stake in the new cocaine trade. With billions in profits to launder annually, the Sicilian Mafia also ranks as the world's most profitable multinational, showing a return of 1,600% on its investment.

Octopus opens with a slapstick scene in New York City's Palace restaurant. A Sicilian Mafioso is trying to pass...

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