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Book Look – “The Butcher: Anatomy of a Mafia Psychopath”

Some people get spooked at the mere thought of a cut on their finger. Others will look at a bleeding cut, realize that it’s not right, and calmly do something about it. Yet others will strip buck naked, get in a bathtub with someone they just murdered, precisely carve the dead up in to six pieces, and stuff the parts in to suitcases for disposal. The latter is the grisly style of mafia capo Tommy “Karate” Pitera, as described in Philip Carlo’s “The Butcher: Anatomy of a Mafia Psychopath”.

"The Butcher" Book Cover“The Butcher” takes a look at the horror and capture of Tommy Pitera from opposing sides. In one camp, Carlo delves in to the challenges Pitera faced growing up in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood; and how those inspired Pitera to hone himself in to an expert martial artist and a deadly mafia assassin. The emergence of Pitera in the Bonanno crime family, and the rough paths of those around him, are interestingly chronicled as he rises from bullied child to highly feared capo.

In parallel with Pitera’s story, Carlo chronicles the DEA career of Jim Hunt, the lead agent who hunted down Pitera. Hunt’s growth and success as a model DEA agent are highlighted, with key focus given to his pursuit of Pitera. The butcher’s shrewdness made for a slippery target though, challenging Hunt and his elite DEA team.

The deadly, drugged up world that Pitera preys in is one of the most insightful parts of this book. Its provides a peek in to how the New York mafia operated during the 1980’s, and emphasizes how much the sale and use of drugs played a key part of that life style. Pietra interestingly went against the grain when it came to drugs. Not wanting to dull his physical edge with drugs, he dabbled in them lightly, proclaiming that “I use the drug; the drug does not use me.”

The Butcher” is an overall worthwhile read. Despite a few areas that feel a bit disjointed in the flow of the story, it provides a compelling look at the barbaric Pitera and the New York mafia families he operated with.

Rating… 3 out of 5 Crumbs

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