three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
35-July-Aug-2008
By: 
Misha Glenny
user_rating: 
0

A-McMafiaMisha Glenny is a former BBC correspondent and Balkans expert. The theft of his car from a Zagreb hotel parking lot fueled his interest in the global implications of organized crime.

The Topic: Amid the positive hype surrounding globalization, Glenny exposes one of its darker sides: organized crime. The collapse of the Soviet Union left thousands of state workers, trained in "surveillance, smuggling, killing people, establishing networks and blackmail," unemployed at the same time that worldwide deregulation provided new opportunities for burgeoning mafias. These conditions, often a response to state failure, ushered in a new era of illicit trading in drugs, arms, diamonds, cigarettes, and energy products. Glenny travels from Bulgaria to Nigeria to the United States and British Columbia to explore this "shadow economy" and highlight its major players and scams. He concludes that unless we create a powerful global regulatory mechanism, "organized crime and corruption will combine with protectionism and chauvinism to engender a very unstable and very dangerous world."
Knopf. 384 pages. $27.95. ISBN: 1400044111

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Besides demonstrating Glenny’s courage, his book exhibits at least two other characteristics of special importance: First, he provides insightful sociological perspectives about why certain nations spawn especially widespread and virulent organized crime networks. Second, he explains how policies in certain nations (mainly, but not exclusively, the United States) generate unanticipated ripple effects in the structures of other nations’ criminal underworlds." Steve Weinberg

Wall Street Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"As Misha Glenny shows in McMafia, a vividly recounted journey through a dozen of the world’s most potent gangs, cartels and transnational mafias, there is hardly any society or economic subculture that is not affected by global criminal networks. … A book with such a wide scope inevitably raises more questions than it answers." Hugh Pope

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"This immensely informative and more than slightly scary book describes in all too vivid detail the ‘gold mine’ that the fall of the Soviet Union opened for ‘criminals, organized and disorganized,’ who ‘were also good capitalists and entrepreneurs.’" Jonathan Yardley

Christian Science Monitor 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Its thesis is clear, compelling, and scary: the West may have declared war on terrorism, but organized crime is by far the more serious threat to our world today, and one we ignore at our peril. … Although his story becomes increasingly disjointed as it progresses, Glenny’s journey through the international underworld is, on the whole, a rich and illuminating one." Mary Wiltenburg

Guardian (UK) 3.5 of 5 Stars
"It is a substantial book that features, among a gallery of extraordinary crime scenes, some of the most compelling analyses of the Balkan tragedy and the creation of the post-Soviet economy. … If the writing is occasionally a little colourful, the conclusions are mostly sober and sound." Andrew Anthony

Miami Herald 3.5 of 5 Stars
"He spent three years interviewing criminals, crime victims and police officials for McMafia, an engrossing, if somewhat unsettling, examination of international crime trends. … From the streets of Bombay (now Mumbai) to Bogotá to Tokyo, Glenny recounts criminal enterprises that, after a time, take on a sameness with their ruthless methods and motive (greed, always)." Kathleen Krog

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Mr. Glenny, the former Central Europe correspondent for the BBC World Service and the author of two books on the Balkans, hops from one to the next in a mind-boggling if less than coherent survey of Internet fraud, illegal energy and weapons deals, drug cartels, counterfeiting of consumer goods, prostitution and car-theft rings, immigrant smuggling and sturgeon poaching. … Money should be awarded to any reader who can follow the full-page flow chart illustrating an energy scam centering on the Hungarian company Eural Trans Gas." William Grimes

Critical Summary

According to Glenny, organized crime currently accounts for a shocking 15 to 20 percent of global GDP—a statistic that only emphasizes the urgency of his message. Critics generally praised this ambitious, eye-opening exploration of international organized crime. Though they still considered the book informative and compelling (even if no "McDonalds" of organized crime exists, as the title implies), a few found Glenny’s narrative leaps and descriptions hard to follow. This is due, in part, to Glenny’s attempt to generalize about global criminal activity. Because it isn’t an easy narrative to relate, "the story begins to fragment into an episodic summary of crime enterprises around the world" (Guardian). However, Glenny’s information is accurate and his arguments are logical; the book is a timely wakeup call to the world. As for his car, it turned up some weeks later in Herzegovina.