Review: THE ICE MAN: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer by Philip Carlo (2006)

Genre: Adult True Crime Nonfiction
Year Release: 2006
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Consumption by rats, mafia violence, murder, gore, dismemberment, child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, spousal abuse, drug use, alcoholism

I got here via The Last Podcast on the Left series on Richard Kuklinski. It covers most of what happens in this book. The abridged version is ridiculous. But the unabridged account of Richard Kuklinski and his career as a mafia contract killer borders on fictional. Taking place in the tri-state area from the later 50’s to the late 80’s, this book uncovers a grisly piece of New York City history. The mafia was at their peak of activity, and the New York Police Department worked to take down the vast networks of associates and core family members. But Richard “The Ice Man” Kuklinski served several families and largely stayed off the NYPD’s radar.

This biography is about as rounded as you can get when examining the life and crimes of a killer who managed to hide his work from his family.

Carlo leaves few stones unturned when researching and recounting this fascinating and grisly tale. He also has a knack of nailing personal details and making the people involved leap off the page like characters in a story. Despite the myriad names, varied murder methods, and betrayal upon betrayal, the timeline of events was super easy to follow. And I feel that Carlo’s perspective added an element of empathetic disbelief at both the frequency of violence and its gratuitousness. He leaves it up the reader to decide if Kuklinski’s position within the mafia had justified outcomes. There is no shying away from the gratuity, which I appreciated.

The thing about this account that made it hard to read at times was that it got repetitive. Entire phrases and passages repeated, and I couldn’t tell if it was how cyclical Kuklinski’s activities and behaviors were or if it was some kind of editorial oversight. However, it did work to a certain extent to keep track of the duality of Kuklinski’s home life and work life.

A surprise that I did not expect was for the audiobook to feature an interview with The Ice Man himself. Hearing about his activities from his own voice was chilling to say the least, and definitely something a reader should know before diving right in.

3 thoughts on “Review: THE ICE MAN: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer by Philip Carlo (2006)

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