The Alex Cohen Series Books 1-3 by Leopold Borstinski
Genre: Historical Crime
Pages: Book 1 - 357
Book 2 - 263
Book 1 - The Bowery Slugger - When Alex Cohen arrives in 1915 America, he seizes the land of opportunity with both hands and grabs it by the throat. But success breeds distrust and Alex must choose between controlling his gang and keeping his friend alive. What would you do if the person you trusted most is setting you up to die at your enemies’ hands?
Book 2 - East Side Hustler - Alex returns from the Great War almost destroyed by the horrors he has experienced. When he is plucked from certain death by an old friend, he commits to making so much money he’ll never know that agony again. But the route to the top is filled with danger and every time he helps one of his powerful friends like Al Capone, he acquires more enemies who want to see him dead. The turmoil caused by the death of organised crime financier, Arnold Rothstein means Alex must once more fight for his life. How far would you go to seize the American dream? And could you protect your family along the way from the fellas who want to see you dead?
Book 3 - Midtown Huckster - Alex runs Murder Inc for Lucky Luciano. After the death of Prohibition he must find a new way to make money, just as the cops are baying at his heels. When Luciano goes down for racketeering, Alex loses his protection and is arrested for tax evasion-he must decide between saving his skin and ratting out his friends. If he chooses prison time then his gang will fall apart and he will end up with nothing. If he squeals then he will have to flee the city he loves and the family he once adored. What would you do in a world where nobody can be trusted and you have everything to lose?
My Thoughts: When Alex arrives in America from Europe in 1915 he straight away falls into bad hands of the gangs of New York. Alex’s parents are struggling to make ends meet and then Alex who is only 15 is bringing in all this money for the family. They’re appreciative but a little concerned about where the money has come from and whose hands it’s been in before theirs. I don’t think at any point throughout all three books he actually discloses to his family what his job is. They know it’s probably crime related, but they know nothing more than that.
Throughout the first book, Alex is known on the streets as Fabian Mustard as that’s the name the immigration people gave him when he first set foot in America. But in the second and third book he’s known as Alex. It was a little bit confusing in the first book when Alex was being called three different names: Alex, Fabian and ‘Slugger’, but it all made sense quite quickly.
As can be expected when you’re part of a gang, not everything is easy. There’s a lot of deaths involved, a lot of violence and little time for Alex to be alone with his feelings (and family) without something cropping up and getting in the way.
In the second book, Alex becomes acquainted with Al Capone. I found this part of the storyline very interesting as it made Alex, as a character, seem more like he was a real person himself. Immersing a fictional character into the life of a real person is a really clever idea and I’ve never seen it before in a book.
Alex is a character that I’ve not made my mind up whether I loved or hated him. The more he aged and the more he was involved in criminal activity, the more of a jerk he became. Throughout the first book he was a generally ok person and towards the end of the third book he displayed some affection towards his family, but aside from that he was generally quite selfish and just liked killing people and making money.
What I Liked:
Something I really enjoyed about these books was that they were a direct continuation from one another. The Bowery Slugger is set in the 1910s, East Side Hustler the 1920s and Midtown Huckster the 1930s. Where one book finishes, the other one carries on (maybe with a few years skipped out). For example, book 1 finishes with him heading off to Europe to fight in WW1, and book 2 starts when he returns from the war.
Some mental maths allowed me to deduce that Alex was born around 1900 so that made it easy to work out how old he was at each point in time.. This meant that you get to see Alex’s choices and how he develops from the age of 15 right up until he’s almost 40.
The writing in these books is INCREDIBLE. Throughout all 3 books the writing is so descriptive and really helps to immerse you within the books and paint a mental picture of each scenario that Alex finds himself in. At no point throughout reading these books was I confused about the plot or what was going on. I’ve read quite a lot of books where I feel like the plot is a bit iffy in patches and I end up getting lost and not following what’s happening, but everything in these books is super clear and easy to follow. I also read all 3 books within the space of 9 days - I was gripped from start to finish.
What I Didn’t Like:
Something I struggled with a little bit throughout these books was the concept of time. It clearly states at the start of each section the month and year, but there were times when 2 or 3 years passed, and it seemed like it could be the next week. It’s almost like the times were changing, but Alex and what he was getting himself up to wasn’t.
For example (hopefully without spoiling too much), Alex ends up getting married and then problems start to occur in the relationship and the two go their separate ways. It seems like it might have been a month or two that had passed between them seeing one another again, but it had actually been more like 2 years?! And then a further 3 years pass but again, it only seems like a few weeks.
I think the speed I read these books speaks for itself as I'm generally quite a slow reader. Despite being a selfish and obnoxious character, Alex was really quite loveable and I think a lot of this is down to the reader going through 25 years of his life with him. There's more books in the series and I'm excited to read them and find out what happened to Alex as book 3 was left on a bit of a cliffhanger!
Buy the first 3 books in the Alex Cohen series!
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