Prizzi’s Money

In the fourth novel in his “Prizzi” series, Richard Condon concocts another amusing and complex tale about the Mafia and its machinations. A fabulously wealthy and powerful man, Henry George Asbury, adviser to four American Presidents and owner of a huge complex of companies, joins with his wife Julia in a plot to stage a fake kidnapping and use the $75,000,000 ransom to bail out his over extended companies. Julia, herself the daughter of a mob enforcer, does not realize that her husband’s money and power depend on the patronage of the mob. She also does not realize that Asbury has planned the entire scam with his friends in the mob.

When she does find out, Julia decides to make off with more than a billion dollars of Mafia money. Amazingly beautiful, she has no trouble seducing the man sent to intimidate her. When her husband is killed, she plays the part of the grieving widow to perfection; outfoxes the clever capo de capos, the gourmand Don Corrado Prizzi; and maneuvers her way among various mob front men and hit men, playing coy with one, acting the wanton with another.

Prominent characters from the earlier novels in the series are less important here. Charley Pantanna, the hit man who is the central figure in earlier novels, is important only in the second half of PRIZZI’S MONEY. His patient longtime fiancee, Maerose Prizzi, has only a bit part. There are, however, plenty of colorful characters, from the ancient and tiny Don Corrado, eating his enormous lunches, to the apprentice hit man whose brilliant smile results from displaying his incredible set of false teeth. There are also Condon’s customary catalogs of Mafia businesses and his amazing menus for the meals eaten by all the characters. It is a very entertaining book.