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Publisher's Summary

In the 1980s, a wave of Chinese from Fujian province began arriving in America. Like other immigrant groups before them, they showed up with little money but with an intense work ethic and an unshakeable belief in the promise of the United States. Many of them lived in a world outside the law, working in a shadow economy overseen by the ruthless gangs that ruled the narrow streets of New York's Chinatown.

The figure who came to dominate this Chinese underworld was a middle-aged grandmother known as Sister Ping. Her path to the American dream began with an unusual business run out of a tiny noodle store on Hester Street. From her perch above the shop, Sister Ping ran a full-service underground bank for illegal Chinese immigrants. But her real business - a business that earned an estimated $40 million - was smuggling people.

As a "snakehead", she built a complex and often vicious global conglomerate, relying heavily on familial ties, and employing one of Chinatown's most violent gangs to protect her power and profits. Like an underworld CEO, Sister Ping created an intricate smuggling network that stretched from Fujian Province to Hong Kong to Burma to Thailand to Kenya to Guatemala to Mexico. Her ingenuity and drive were awe-inspiring both to the Chinatown community, where she was revered as a homegrown Don Corleone, and to the law enforcement officials who could never quite catch her.

Indeed, Sister Ping's empire only came to light in 1993 when the Golden Venture, a ship loaded with 300 undocumented immigrants, ran aground off a Queens beach. It took New York's fabled "Jade Squad" and the FBI nearly 10 years to untangle the criminal network and home in on its unusual mastermind.

The Snakehead is a panoramic tale of international intrigue and a dramatic portrait of the underground economy in which America's 12 million illegal immigrants live.

©2009 Patrick Radden Keefe (P)2009 Random House

What listeners say about The Snakehead

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

But Is It a Crime?

Patrick Keefe has written a wonderfully informative book about illegal immigration of Chinese into the U.S. This work balances the stereotypical view of illegal immagration as a "Mexican" thing alone. The ramifications for immigration policy, Homeland Security, and providing healthcare to the undocumented are never far from the reader's mind.

This is the story of one "Sister Ping" and her trafficing of Fujianese into the U.S. If you are looking for elegant language, you may not find it here. If you are looking to understand the immigration issue in a broader context, this is the book for you. If you are just a concerned voter and want to understand the immigration issue, don't miss this book.

For those interested in true crime, this is an interesting read as well. Those interested in reading further about international crime might also try "The Accountant's Story" by Roberto Escobar and "Gomarrah" by Roberto Saviano. All three books are informative, well read and available from Audible.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Highly Recommended!!

This book is a phenomenal account of human smuggling in modern day New York. The book is incredibly well written and well read. The story takes you through the lives of the smugglers and the smuggled, the law enforcement decisions and the immigration consequences. It is a truly moving work that will forever change the way you look at Chinatown NYC.

5 people found this helpful

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pretty good

This is an interesting book. Even a true story has characters, I listened to both the book about the IRA and the book about the Sackler family before this one and the latter two give you a better sense of the people involved. Better character development. Also, this one is worlds better than Chatter. Not that Chatter is bad. it isn't. I just wanted to be able to recommend it to a paranoid friend of mine as an introduction to how to find good information, but it reads like a love letter to a thesaurus and it will put anyone who isnt in love with language for its own sake off. The author is getting better at organizing the story and giving the reader some points of view to follow, That's where this one is lacking, the point of view.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating book on immigration, migration .

Fascinating book on immigration, migration, and the Underworld. Author did a great job. Great balance of history, politics exit right in the human story

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent

I will read anything written by Mr Keene. He is a wonderful writer. Amazing research and a wonderful look at the migration problem.

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Little Old Ladies Are Criminals Too

Would you consider the audio edition of The Snakehead to be better than the print version?

I vaguely remember the news about the leading incident in the book, wherein a ship wrecks and discharges its payload of would-be immigrants on a riverbank in NYC, as close to its destination as possible. The story about the search for the ultimate head of the business, who turns out to be a Chinese grandmother businesswoman who sees herself as helping her neighbors (at $30,000 a pop) is enlightening, particularly now when most of the news stories are about immigrants smuggled over the US-Mexican border. Not only Mexicans are being smuggled via that route, and it's been said Kazakh nuclear weapons could be brought in. Just yesterday, in Russia, an Iranian was caught trying to smuggle nuclear material out of the country by airplane--he was released, but his material stayed in the country. For how long? The US government hires minimum wage flunkeys to

What other book might you compare The Snakehead to and why?

I've never seen any similar book.

  • Overall
    out of 5 stars

Interesting and more

Very entertaining! Great listen.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Save your credit

The book uses about three or four times as much info as is needed.