In the last novel written before his death, the preeminent chronicler of the mafia concludes his mob trilogy with the depiction of yet another memorable, aging chieftain. Don Raymonde Aprile, the Mafia leader in Omerta, is the latest in a long line of Mario Puzo's characters who have tried to put centuries of vendetta behind them and become upright pillars of the American community. Unlike Vito Corleone, from Puzo's The Godfather, or Domenico Clericuzio, from The Last Don, Don Raymonde meets with some success by keeping his three children away from the family business at the expense of his adopted nephew, Astorre Viola.
As he did in the two earlier novels, Puzo manages to imbue his less-than-savory characters with a sense of nobility by highlighting their redeeming qualities and downplaying their amorality. The crimes Viola commits during the course of the novel are portrayed as acts of justified vigilantism rather than misdeeds motivated by money. Although Puzo once again focuses on the complex relationship of loyalty and betrayal, the actual violence and bloodshed are more restrained in this novel, which was completed shortly before the author died in July, 1999.
Another new feature in Omerta is the character Kurt Cilke, an FBI agent who was responsible for bringing down many of the leaders of the Mafia in the years immediately prior to the novel's action. The novel follows the quasi-legal dealings of Don Raymonde's family and an attempt by a corrupt South American syndicate to take over the family banks for their own illicit purposes.
Puzo's plot moves quickly as Cilke, Viola, and the syndicate work to gain the advantage on their opponents. Viola's faction seems outnumbered, yet his sense of honor forbids him to break omerta, a code of conduct which forbids informing about crimes. The fact that Viola is willing and able to live by this ethical code, no matter how strange it might seem, is what distinguishes him from his antagonists.
By championing character whose ways of life are both traditional and reprehensible to modern civilization, Puzo forces the reader to consider the underpinnings of the larger society.