Joseph Pistone gives a very honest and frank account of how things started for him in his FBI role as "Donnie Brasco", how he and the FBI had never intended to infiltrate the mafia and of how his success ultimately cost him and his long-suffering family their freedom.
It gives fantastic insight into how a "slowly, slowly" approach and an excruciatingly painful waiting game, eventually paid off as Donnie becomes the most trusted friend and associate of the Bonanno Family's Captain, Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano.
The descriptive accounts of events make clear that this lifestyle is often a pitiful and unpleasant one.
Surprisingly, life in the Mob is not nearly as exciting or as glamorous as others would have us believe. Life for the Wiseguys more often than not consists of chasing the carrot on a stick, but ensuring to look over your shoulder the whole time you chase it.
Even when Wiseguys hit the jackpot, the number of people they are required to share the proceeds with means that they barely break even at the end of it all. The main reward however, is credibility and so less chance of being "clipped".
Despite what these people do and the way in which they do it, you cannot help but feel sorry for them. "Lefty Ruggiero" is the character I felt most sorry for throughout. His seething resentment and bitterness towards those he works for is apparent throughout, as does his genuine affection for Donnie, the undercover FBI agent who was best man at his wedding.
When Lefty occasionally gets onto something that promises huge financial reward and respect, his excitement is almost contagious, as is his bitter disappointment and fear when things don't work out. That this disappointment is courtesy of his best friend "Donnie" who is taking action to prevent their scam from working, makes it all the more sad.
The book is full of tense moments that spring out of nowhere; only to ease you gently back down afterwards. Just when you think something major is about to happen and all hell will break loose, all goes quiet - just as daily life seems to be for the Wiseguys. You wonder whether his cover will be blown because of what someone else has found out or said about him, or whether he is going to be found wearing a wire in the riskiest of situations.
Joseph Pistone's cocksure attitude and blatant nerve is what you feel kept him alive and so well hidden for the six years he was undercover, even when he couldn't be less certain about how events were unfolding.
The certainty about himself and his role is unquestionable yet he is open and frank about his feelings towards the men whose downfall he plotted. On several occasions, he talks about how he was there, as an FBI agent - not a social worker, so did not feel too guilty about what their future would hold afterwards. Sadly, I get the feeling this is something he is trying to convince himself of and not just the reader.
The psychological aspects of this case are something, which I look forward to reading in the books that follow on from this one, namely "The Way of the Wiseguy" and "Unfinished Business".
For those who have yet to experience this amazing, true story for the first time, "Donnie Brasco" is an excellent book and one that keeps you hooked from the first page.