I must admit, I was never much interested in Vietnamese criminal gangs until I stumbled across this book. I've read a fair amount on the Italian, Chinese and Hispanic gangs, but this was the only book I had ever read on this topic.
For the most part, I enjoyed the book. It provides a nice narrative of the life of one particular gang, and while it certainly has its share of gory crime details, it also explores a bit of the personal history and the lifestyles of the gang members.
----- The Good Points: -----
* TJ English writes in an easy-to-read style. I read the book in just a few sessions, and it held my interest throughout.
* The book concentrates on a handful of characters, so it is easy to develop some familiarity with them, and learn a bit about what makes them tick. Unusual for a book with Asian characters, the names are different enough that it is easy for an Anglo to keep them all straight.
* The narrative is fairly detailed, and combines first person accounts (no doubt from actual testimony) with narratives to fill in the missing points.
* While it only covers the span of a few years, we are taken through the complete lifecycle of a gang, from inception to its being stamped out by law enforcement. A well-contained and complete tale.
----- The Bad Points: -----
Disclaimer: I am a bit meticulous about items presented as "facts" in non-fiction.
* There is a lot of detail in the book, including detailed conversations between criminal characters. Most of these do not appear to be transcripts of taped conversations, but rather reconstructed from testimony and 3rd parties. Always somewhat suspect, especially for details.
* Nothing bothers me more about non-fiction than factual errors that should have been spotted during the editing process. For example, one passage states "...since Tinh made the long drive along I-80 with the rest of the BTK road crew into the heart of the Deep South...". A quick check of a map reveals you are never going to get much deeper south on I-80 than Cleveland. Seemingly a nitpicky error, but shakes my confidence in the rest of the facts in the book that I can't verify.
* The final section of the book contains a number of conclusions that are totally unsupported by the narrative. For example, the conclusions have several points about nationwide gang organizations-while the entire narrative concentrates on a group of 20 people who only occasionally ventured more than 50 miles from Manhattan.
----- Summary: -----
The book has a few problems, which you may find more or less serious than I did. It was an enjoyable read, and did provide an excellent view into the actions of a Vietnamese crime gang, and also gave insights into the issues of crime among Asian communities in the US. I am glad I read it, but the experience was somewhat ruined because of nagging doubts about the book's accuracy.