Mobsters, Gangsters, and Men of Honour: Cracking the Mafia Code


261 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-00-200668-5
DDC 364.1'06'097




Reviewed by Geoff Hamilton

Geoff Hamilton is a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of
British Columbia.


Pierre de Champlain is a distinguished RCMP intelligence analyst. In
this book, he explores the “rules and protocols by which members of
the Mafia [are] expected to abide.” His focus is on the American
Mafia, although Sicilian and Canadian branches are also discussed. A
glossary, black-and-white photographs of important figures, and charts
explaining the structure of various Mafia families are included.

The book, a superb study of Mafia ideology and practice, represents an
important contribution to our understanding of the inner workings of a
notorious criminal organization. Though many books have been published
about the Mafia and its more infamous members, this one is the first, to
my knowledge, to look closely at the impact of behavioural and
procedural codes on the organization and functioning of its criminal
enterprises. Astutely argued and grippingly written, this volume offers
a plethora of incisive examples and lurid anecdotes in explaining “the
rationale behind the conduct of [Mafia] members, and, in particular,
behind their perpetration of murder and other crimes.”

One of the book’s guiding analogies is that the Mafia is equivalent
to a totalitarian government, and de Champlain convincingly demonstrates
how “Cosa Nostra’s code of discipline” works to subordinate the
interests of the majority of its members to those of a small ruling
elite. The Mafia’s sophisticated regulation of operational
jurisdiction, management hierarchies, and its own judicial and penal
systems are explained in clear and compelling detail. Especially
insightful is the section dealing with the Mafia’s strategies for the
recruitment of low-level “soldiers,” whose antisocial attitudes are
exploited for the benefit of higher-ranking members. The reasons behind
the enduring success of the Mafia as a criminal network, the appeal of
the organization to the disenfranchised, and its various points of
weakness now being targeted by law enforcement agencies are persuasively


de Champlain, Pierre., “Mobsters, Gangsters, and Men of Honour: Cracking the Mafia Code,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 13, 2024,