Book Review: The Birth of an Assassin

It only takes one moment to transform an individual, but Theo Gresco, the protagonist has been front and center in many of these moments. A childhood in shambles and innocence lost, Gresco lost faith in trust itself, spiraling down the staircase of crime and betrayal-the only thing he knew. This premise of The Birth of an Assassin, by
Antonio Bertot, is enticing and captivating, hooking the reader right from the get-go.

As the novel revolves around the world of crime, the rise of the Giordano and Costellino crime families is well documented. The Birth of an Assassin is set against the backdrop of two major U.S. cities-Chicago and New York-in the early 1940s, and spans nearly two decades, from 1942 to 1964.

The story opens up in Little Italy, Chicago, with eight-year-old Theo Gresco prancing through town with his most cherished possession, his camera. With little Theo’s innocence intact, the neighborhood is not only ravaged by its own war, but suffering the effects of WWII as well. No one is secure as neighbors loot stores, and even steal from each other. These are desperate times.

In order to protect themselves, Theo’s father, Sergio, and other shop owners decide to hire an armed guard, Davino, for protection. Unknown to Davino, the woman he falls in love with is hired by the Sabrisio crime family to seduce him, and thus, seal his fate, along with the fates of the neighborhood shop owners.

Sergio’s murder results in Theo’s loss of innocence, transforming him into what he soon becomes-a cold-blooded, revenge-seeking assassin. Before this transformation is complete, however, Theo and his mother, Lucia, go back to Italy to stay with
Angelina Gresco, Lucia’s mother-in-law. There, his mother is murdered, leaving Theo an orphan.

As Angelina and Fernando, Theo’s grandparents, and Theo flee toward a school for protection, Theo joins a shorthanded American battalion and kills for the first time. He also gets a taste of revenge for the first time, killing Herr Kaiser, the man who murdered his mother.

Ultimately, the moment that captures Theo’s rise to an assassin is when he has just slain Herr Kaiser. His grandmother takes the rifle out of his hand, and tries to hold him close and provide that maternal warmth that a nine-year-old should receive. During their embrace, he reaches out for the rifle and clutches it tightly, the compelling image of the assassin’s realization-a metamorphosis complete. The Birth of an Assassin is at once poignant and powerful; it will keep readers riveted to the last page. This book can be ordered at,, and everywhere books are sold.

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