Sunday, April 19, 2009

Guest Review: The Canary Sang but Couldn't Fly

When I saw THE CANARY SANG BUT COULDN'T FLY: THE FATAL FALL OF ABE RELES, THE MOBSTER WHO SHATTERED MURDER, INC.'S CODE OF SILENCE by Edmund Elmaleh, I just knew Booking Pap Pap would want to read it. For whatever reason, he and I both love books about organized crime. As I'm sure you can see, this one sounds very intriguing!

Summary: It remains one of the most enduring mysteries in gangland lore: in 1941, while Abe Reles and three other key informants were under round-the-clock NYPD protection, the ruthless and powerful thug took a deadly plunge from the window of a Coney Island hotel. The first criminal of his stature to break the underworld’s code of silence, he had begun “singing” for the courts—giving devastating testimony that implicated former cronies—with more to come. With cops around him day and night, how could Abe have gone out the window? Did he try to escape? Did a hit man break in? Or did someone in the “squealer’s suite” murder him? Here’s the gripping story, packed with political machinations, legal sleight-of-hand, mob violence—and, finally, a proposed answer to the question: How did Abe Reles really die? -- Union Square Press

The Canary Sang But Couldn’t Fly by Edmund Elmaleh recounts the life and death of Abe Reles, the first high-level mobster to break the Mob’s Code of Silence In November 1941, at the time he was testifying against several prominent gangsters, Reles fell to his death from the sixth floor of a Coney Island hotel while under around-the-clock protection by the NYPD. The details of Reles’ death remain a mystery today.

Edmund Elmaleh recounts the story of Reles’ first adventures in crime as a young boy in Brooklyn, his ascent to the higher ranks of the Mob and his decision to turn against organized crime. Along the way Reles presents amazing stories of some of the most notorious mobsters of the day including Albert Anastasia, “Lepke” Buchalter, and Dutch Schultz, among others.

Even though the original police investigation suggested that Reles fell from the window while trying to escape, Elmaleh discredits the findings through his ten years of research into previously sealed FBI documents and other sources. Reles is highly critical of the initial police findings and raises several questions on procedures such as the gathering of evidence at and the securing of the crime scene, interviews of possible eye-witnesses, and the interview with Reles’ wife (his last visitor). Elmaleh also finds fault with the conclusions of a Grand Jury investigation held ten years after Reles’ death.

Elmaleh evaluates several possible conspiracies that were put forth by both government and the Mob to explain Reyes’ death. He also suggests a scenario of his own to solve this mystery.

Elmaleh provides a credible and exciting picture of Mob violence and organization during this period of American history and exposes the role of legal maneuvering and politics in the crime solving process. He also utilizes sound research to raise questions about the original investigation and to offer his own solution to the death of Abe Reles..

I enjoyed the book very much and would recommend it to those who enjoy a good crime mystery.

A big thanks to Booking Pap Pap for his review and Union Square Press for sending me a copy of this book.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

Great review, Booking Pap Pap. I'm fascinated with books about organized crime, too!