The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer (Review)

Book cover for "The Ice Man" by Philip Carlo.Title: The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer

Author: Philip Carlo

Narrator: Michael Prichard

Publication Year: 2006

Pages: 412 (audio length: 19 hours 17 minutes)

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Audiobook version purchased from

From the cover:

Richard “The Ice Man” Kuklinski led a double life beyond anything ever seen on The Sopranos, becoming one of the most notorious professional assassins in American history while hosting neighborhood barbecues in suburban New Jersey. Now, after 240 hours of face-to-face interviews with Kuklinski and his wife and daughters, author Philip Carlo tells his extraordinary story. Kuklinski was Sammy “The Bull” Gravano’s partner in the killing of Paul Castellano at Spark’s Steakhouse. John Gotti hired him to kill the neighbor who accidentally ran over his child. For an additional price, he would make victims suffer; he conducted this sadistic business with cold-hearted intensity, never disappointing his customers. By his own estimate, he killed over 200 men, taking enormous pride in his variety and ferocity of technique.

Once I started listening to this book, I found myself enthralled and had a hard time pressing pause.

It wasn’t because of the writing, though. Let’s just get that out of the way right from the outset – the writing in this book stinks. Or, at least, the variety constant repetition of phrases, words, and descriptions are what stink. I often found myself wondering if I was hearing anecdotes that had already been told, or whether the author was really that stuck in using the same descriptors for Kuklinski and the other people all. the. time. Seriously. It was annoying after a while.

After I started ignoring the writing style, though, and pretending that I didn’t notice the narrow word choice, I realized just how interesting the story was. I mean, I noticed from the beginning that Kuklinski was an amazingly interesting character – and not in a “good guy” kind of way – but it sometimes was hard to see when I was distracted by other things.

I think that part of why I enjoyed The Ice Man so much was that I didn’t know anything about Kuklinski going into the audiobook. I’m not old enough to remember the high-profile mafia doings that he participated in, and our family just didn’t talk about things like that. I do, however, have a strange interest in learning about serial killers and organized crime. I love television shows like Criminal Minds, and this just fit that bill so closely that it worked for me.

As a funny aside, the day that I was listening to the very last of this audiobook – the “bonus material” audio clips of interviews with Kuklinski – I saw another person on the subway with me who was carrying a paperback copy of the book.

If you can get over the flaws in the writing style, The Ice Man is an intense and intimate look into the world of Kuklinski and his involvement in the American mafia. I found myself completely enthralled; if you’re interested in dark subjects like this, you might, too.


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