Guest Writer: Stonie Williams
Writer – Chris Sarracini
Artist – Nick Kilislian
Letterer – Matt Moylan
This article was possible due to the gift of a review copy, QWERTY, and rolling natural 20s.
“The men I help don’t wait in line for opportunity. Too little time to waste with that. Life is on the clock.”
Casa Nostra – Chicago, 1933. Organized crime is at an all-time high. Claire lives in a farmhouse safely 6 hours away in Manitowish, Wisconsin. Safely is the operative word here. Claire runs a safe house for criminals who need to lie low while their heat dies down. Claire and her girls provide many services ranging from hospitality to medical. Sharleen patches them up. Annabell nurses them back to health. Rosa cooks and manages the guns. Claire calls in Charlie when things get messier than a mop can handle. The lake is a good place to dispose of what’s left of a body as any. It’s an arrangement that’s worked well so far. Claire provides the safe house and services. The Chicago Syndicate provides the criminals and a certain level of protection.
Casa Nostra is a story, unlike anything I’ve ever read before. A beautiful period noir story that captures the soul of the era. Any fan of this era and genre is sure to fall in love with Casa Nostra. Those unfamiliar with the era will find themselves drawn into the character-driven story. Casa Nostra permeates with history. Going back to learn about this era opens up lots of connections that one might gloss over at first glance. Members of the Mafia referred to themselves as Cosa Nostra, “our thing”. Casa Nostra means “our house”. The book touches on historical people like Babyface Nelson, John Dillinger and Bonnie & Clyde.
I love books that the protagonists aren’t good guys. They’re relatable with aspirations and motives that you can project yourself onto. Although, they’re rarely ‘good’ people. I love the poignant way Casa Nostra deals with that struggle. Can you still justify your own actions when you’re helping people whose actions you can’t justify? What happens when you pull the curtain back and you can’t ignore the bad you’re complicit in? How long can you continue to see yourself as one of the good guys?
Chris Sarracini takes you back in time with a beautiful story. Casa Nostra is compelling and dramatic while still rooted in history and reality. His characters are complex people. People who see themselves as simple until they’re forced to examine themselves. Nick Kilislian’s art brings the story to life with an almost cartoon feel. But without ever losing the dark and dramatic themes. The scenes are beautiful with a cinematic feel that demands Casa Nostra see a life in film.
I recommend this book to anyone over the age of 13. It’s got some graphic violence and suggestive images. The adult themes are going to be a bit much for a younger audience. Any fans of the 1930s, noir films, and the Mob era will find Casa Nostra a joy to read. I hope with great intensity that it opens the door to new fans for this era and genre. It’s a rich history with larger than life characters. I look forward to seeing what comes from Kilislian and Sarracini in the future. Until next time, happy reading!