Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Wicked Wives by Gus Pelagetti

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Author
Read: January 14, 2013

"Wicked Wives" is based on the true story of the 1938 Philadelphia murder scandals in which seventeen wives were arrested for murdering their husbands. Mastermind conspirator Giorgio DiSipio, a stunning lothario and local tailor who preys upon disenchanted and unfaithful wives, convinces twelve of them to kill their spouses for insurance money. The murder conspiracy is very successful until one lone assistant D.A., Tom Rossi, uncovers the plot and brings the perpetrators to justice. "Wicked Wives" is a story made for Hollywood, combining murder, corruption, treachery, love, lust and phenomenal detail as it vividly captures Depression-era Philadelphia.

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I couldn't have been more excited when author Gus Pelagetti asked me to review his book The Wicked Wives. I love true crime novels and the very idea of a bunch of women poisoning their husbands was more than a little provocative. I eagerly agreed to take on the book in exchange for an honest review.

Overall I liked the book but I particularly enjoyed the obvious effort Pelagetti put into making sure the complex web of intrigue didn't overwhelm his readers. Each part of the conspiracy evolves naturally, moving from one event to the next with fluidity I am unused to seeing in the work of first time authors.

Still, for all that I applaud this effort; I also feel the cast is rather shallowly characterized. Take Tom for example. We know he is the First Assistant D.A. with hopes of being elected D.A. when his superior retires, but reading the book cover to cover, I never really understood what drove this character. I wanted to know what made him tick, to get into his head, to understand why he is the way he is especially since he is the primary lead. There are so many characters that one could hardly expect to get to know them all, but still, I would have liked to see a lot more depth to characters like Tom, Hope and Giorgio.

Ultimately my rating came down to a single factor: I called who did it and nothing kills the ending of a whodunit so much realizing the hunch you've been sitting on most of the book is correct. Though I think Pelagatti's mystery has excellent movement, I can't say it kept me guessing and in the end that is what makes a mystery in my eyes. I want to be hanging on the author's every word, to be blown away by the reveal and that just didn't happen here.

Definitely interesting and worth looking into, especially to those who enjoy true crime novels.

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The NYSE did not return to pre-1929 levels until 1954, and in the years following the crash, every dollar was coveted. Desperate for money, a group of Philadelphia housewives found a way to get some of those coveted dollars. All it took was a willingness to kill. 
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