Review: The Wicked Wives by Gus Pelagatti

Title: Wicked Wives

Author: Gus Pelagatti

Published: MillCity Press 2008

Synopsis: “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.

Status: Read on March 04, 2012 — I own a copy {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

I used to read quite a lot of true crime so when Gus Pelagatti contacted me requesting a review of Wicked Wives my interest was piqued. The 1938 case the author has based his novel on is quite sensational, particularly for the times, though a similar case in modern times would be no less so. Based on a true story that occurred in Philadelphia, Gus Pelagatti’s fictionalised account of a complex murder conspiracy is an interesting and entertaining read.
When DA Tom Rossi, despite venomous opposition and threats, persisted in his investigation into the suspicious death of Reggie Stoner, he had no idea he would eventually uncover an elaborate scheme that involved murder, adultery, drugs, insurance fraud and blackmail. Manipulated by charismatic tailor, Giorgio DiSipio, desperate wives agreed to take out life insurance policies on their husbands and then stood by, or actively participated, in their murders. Successfully negotiating political corruption, deceit and threats, Tom Rossi would eventually bring more than twenty people to trial on charges of murder and conspiracy to murder.

I found the story of the case quite fascinating, it’s an elaborate web of conspiracy aided by corruption, with unlikely criminal suspects and victims. Yet it took just one loose thread, and a determined prosecutor to unravel, what could have been considered the perfect crime. In fact I would think there were probably wives and their victims who were never identified. Pelagatii builds the story not unlike the way a trial lawyer might sum up a case to a jury, providing background on the people involved and ensuring the facts are unambiguous. The twist, when it comes, is unexpected, proof that sometimes, real life is stranger than fiction.

Pelagatti’s experience as a trial lawyer is evident in the novel, though there is little of the actual court proceedings, it is structured not unlike a brief with facts and details carefully laid out to reach an unassailable conclusion. The author, who grew up in just a few streets away from the infamous tailor shop, interviewed many of the original lawyers, detectives and witnesses in the case. It’s not clear how much of the personalities of the conspirators are gleaned from known facts, or to what extent the author has added his own interpretation to the emotions and motivations of the men and women involved, but it reads as genuine.

It is easy to forget that part of this tale is fictionalised, as the tone is closer to a true life crime recount than a novel. It matters little though for Wicked Wives is an intriguing story of a scandalous and unique crime.

Wicked Wives is available to purchase

@Amazon {Kindle & print}


About the Author

Gus Pelagatti is a practicing trial lawyer with over 47 years of experience trying civil and criminal cases, including homicide and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, limited to attorneys who have been recognized as achieving a standard of excellence as a trial expert. Gus has spent years researching the true story of the 1938 insurance scam murders, interviewing judges, lawyers, police and neighbors involved in the trials and was born and raised within blocks of the main conspirator’s tailor shop and the homes of many of the wives convicted of murdering their husbands.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    Mar 14, 2012 @ 10:24:10

    This one sounds interesting, Shelleyrae. I’m not usually a true crime fan, but it sounds as though there’s enough here to hook me in. 🙂



  2. Tea Time with Marce
    Mar 15, 2012 @ 08:40:54

    I have this one for your review also, it sounds fascinating, I love the idea that it has the feel of true crime and novel mixed.



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