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Reviewed by Jessica Barbosa for Readers' Favorite
Luellen Smiley’s Cradle of Crime: A Daughter's Tribute is a narrative account of a hidden family history. The narrator of the story is hounded by her fear of her father, but after watching the documentary of Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel’s life, her father’s best friend, hearing comments from friends and acquaintances hinting at her father’s ‘other life’, and her inability to answer questions regarding her father’s past pique her curiosity and direct her to a path she never imagined she would take. Eventually she is driven to search for the hidden part of her father’s past that he tried so hard to hide from her and deny. She is thrust into a journey she never expected.
This a refreshing, wonderful story in the fact that I got to see the unfolding of Allen Smiley and Ben Siegel’s story through the eyes of Allen Smiley’s daughter. I got to see the point of view of someone who personally knew Allen Smiley, the other side of him: the family man and her reactions to discovering her father’s past, secrets, and how people viewed her father and the Mafia. To my delight, the author also included journals and files relating to the criminal speculations of Ben Siegel’s murder which helped shape the book’s framework. I felt like a detective myself as I read through the story and found out more and more about her father’s other life. I learned a lot through her journey and admired how she pursued knowledge despite how difficult and hurtful it must have been to uncover her father’s secrets. Through her journey of denial, curiosity, and disbelief, she managed to find people who understood her history and accepted her. Eventually she found the final destination of her search; she found family, acceptance, and belonging, and in her own way she became the connection her newfound family needed.