Chris Massi never wanted to enter his father's business with the Mob. Instead, he followed the law and became an attorney, not deviating from his standards when he married the daughter of a Mafia kingpin.
Chris' father is Joe Black Massi, a Mafia assassin.
When Joe is killed and soon after, Chris' mother dies of a heart attack, Chris looks at his family and notices that his teenage son is developing a swagger and signs that he might hold Mafia members in a heroic manner. Chris doesn't want this life for his son and has to figure a strategy.
He meets with the Don, Junior Boy DiGiglio, who was Chris' former father-in-law. Chris asks what he must do so that his son, the Don's grandson, isn't tempted to enter the Mafia.
DiGiglio tells Chris the name of the man who killed Chris' father, Barsonetti, the Boat. This man had offered Joe Black a position as capo in Barsonetti's family and a share in some money Joe Black was holding for someone else. When Joe Black refused, Barsonetti took it as a personal insult and had him killed.
We also follow Chris' childhood friend, Ed Dolan, who has developed a hatred for Chris since Chris' father killed Ed's, even though it was in self-defense. Dolan's hatred becomes an obsession and now he is a prosecutor with the Mayor's organized crime task force. He wants to destroy Chris, legally or illegally.
The plot flows smoothly in the realistic setting of New York and New Jersey. Details of Mafia family life are carefully woven into the story and Chris' integrity and goal in life is challenged as he sees Dolan taking steps to destroy Chris' family. Excitement builds with a well described climax in the New Jersey marshes and then in the offices of the Mafia hierarchy.