Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wicked Wives by Gus Pelagatti - review

Wicked Wives  
Gus Pelagatti
cover - interesting; captures the look of the 30/40's style look.

Wicked Wives is based on true events that took place in Philadelphia in the 30's and 40's. Gus Pelagatti took some events that happened years ago, in the 30's and fictionalized them producing a story with two parts.  One part deals with some of the stories of the characters who were desperate for money and/or an escape from their current situation.  The second part is the investigation and trials of the characters involved.

A debut writer, Gus Pelagatti didn't write the most polished story I've ever read, but he did write it in an interesting enough style to keep me reading.  Being a non-professional reviewer, I guess it's a match, lol.  Anyway, as far as the story narration went, it was a style that I haven't read much of.  Of course, the fact that I haven't read many crime novels might be why it I had the impression that it could have been more polished.  

This was a sometimes dry, sometimes humorous, fact based story; I could imagine that I was sitting in a lecture hall, learning the story of a group of people who took to poisoning their husbands to get insurance money.  They all had slightly differing reasons, but they all had one thing in common.  They were involved with a certain individual who made things happen, either supplying poison, helping to administer poison or even planning out murder in other ways.  As long as he received a cut of the insurance money, this guy was happy to help.  In fact, he made sure there were policies out on these hapless husbands.  Each woman also seemed to have a basic lack of regard or compassion, as well as an obsession with this man - a tailor who considered himself quite the ladies' man.

The dialogue reminded me of dialogue in old black and white crime films I used to see when I was little - those films that were always on t.v. when we were supposed to be in bed, but we would sneak out to see what our mom was watching.  (we always got caught, though it took her a little while to catch us).  Props on the realistic dialogue that fit the time era.  The attitudes the characters' displayed also fit the times - this is set way before women's liberation was came around, when women and men had double standards.

As I mentioned earlier, the narration was interesting - a mix of a report like fiction and procedural.  During the story itself, it seemed that there was no mystery - Pelagatti lays everything out, the murders, the participants, the investigations and the trial.  Except for the one very huge twist at the end.  I was surprised - it was a good plot twist.  Didn't see it coming.

While I think that Pelagatti could use some work or experience in writing a novel that reads a bit more polished, or more like a novel - that might not be what he was going for.  Either way, with experience, if he decides to write more, I bet he'll improve with time.  I also think that it's cool, very cool - that after a lifetime of 'lawyering', he took a chance and just wrote a novel.  How many people dream of writing and never really go for it? (of course, it's probably GOOD that some don't realize their writing dreams - but think of all we might miss if nobody took a chance on writing?)

Interesting to me is the fact that Pelagatti is an attorney, and grew up hearing stories of the true life crime ring he writes about.  More info at his website (click on his name above).  And as a debut crime novel, not a bad job.  I have a habit of giving up reading books that bore me, and this novel kept me interested, especially for a book that isn't in my normal reading interest.  If it keeps my interest it's a plus for me.  

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