It is a little known fact that one immigrant Italian family ran London’s thriving vice trade unchecked from the mid-1930s for some twenty years.
The five Messina brothers imported prostitutes from the Continent on an industrial scale, acquiring the women British citizenship by phony marriages. Demanding 80% of earnings, the Messina family became fabulously wealthy, purchasing expensive properties, cars and influence.
As this revealing and absorbing account describes, the brothers ruled with a ruthless combination of charm, blackmail and all too credible threats of disfigurement and death.
It took a sensational Sunday newspaper exposé to get the authorities to act. A series of dramatic arrests and trials followed and one by one the brothers were imprisoned and deported for crimes including immoral earnings, attempted bribery and firearms offenses.
Such was their fortune that numerous potential beneficiaries came forward, most recently in 2012.
The author, a much published former Metropolitan police officer, has researched the remarkable criminal careers of the five Messina’s and the result is a riveting and shocking read.