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Winegardner's 'Revenge' short on suspense

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If your favorite scenes in Mario Puzo's The Godfather and Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather movie trilogy centered on the violent behavior of Mafia crime families, you may be disappointed by Mark Winegardner's more psychologically focused The Godfather's Revenge.

In 2003, Winegardner won a contest sponsored by publisher Random House and was given the opportunity to write a sequel to Puzo's 1969 blockbuster. The Godfather's Return, published in 2004, received rave reviews and was a best seller.

Revenge takes place in 1963 and 1964, after Coppola's The Godfather, Part II and more than a decade before the events of The Godfather, Part III.

The story is highly internalized and depends less on violent behavior and suspenseful action than it does on the day-to-day machinations of running major crime organizations.

Equally mundane is the enormous amount of attention Winegardner pays to the health problems of aging Godfather Michael Corleone, his consigliere/brother Tom Hagen and Nick Geraci, their nemesis of the moment.

The plot of revenge is driven by the disappearance of Geraci, former sotto capo (underboss) for the Corleone family, who is on the run and hotly pursued by both the FBI and the crime family.

Geraci bides his time hiding out in a bomb shelter underneath Lake Erie where he develops his scheme to exact revenge and grab power from Corleone.

Winegardner's focus, through much of the book, is the intersection of the Mafia and American politics. He borrows and fictionalizes, to the book's advantage, the idea (real or imagined) that the Mob was involved in the assassination of JFK.

In Revenge, the Mafia families are responsible for the election of Irish-American President Jimmy Shea, whose brother, Danny, is the attorney general.

It's not clear why, but Danny is actively working for the downfall of the crime organizations despite their work to get his brother elected.

The president faces his own downfall as the result of an organized conspiracy.

The "revenge" of the book's title happens near the novel's end and is a most satisfying scene packed with the sweet rewards reaped by the longstanding patience, understanding and power of Michael Corleone.

Revenge's overdependence on mental ruminations, health issues and the characters' personal anxieties and dour natures makes it an offer you might want to refuse.

The Godfather's Revenge

By Mark Winegardner

Putnam, 487 pp., $25.95

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© Copyright 2006 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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