Arriving in America in 1915, Alex Cohen is tagged with an unusual name, courtesy of a dull-witted official. Moving into a tenement apartment with his family, Alex’s reputation as a fighter (Slugger) secures him work in one of the many gangs who use extortion and muscle to make their money.
This is book 1 in the Alex Cohen series and the first of this author’s books I’ve read. Charting the rise of an immigrant into the Jewish New York mob, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the story, but its similarity to classics like The Godfather are hard to ignore. As the hero acquires two other names (apart from his real one), various family members/thugs/gangsters etc refer to him as Alex, Slugger or Fabian. While this is fine, what’s irritating is the author’s habit of doing the same thing, so while he tells us what’s happing to Alex in one paragraph, he’ll then refer to him in the next as Slugger, and then Fabian. Maybe I’m just being picky, but a bit of consistency would work wonders—the character is called Alex, so he should be called that throughout, leaving the book’s characters to refer to him by whatever name they know him as.
I really wanted to like this book but found it difficult to identify with any of the characters, and that’s never a good sign. Having said that, I’ve already agreed to read book 3 in the series, so we’ll see what happens.