Saturday, March 24, 2007

Prizzi’s Family, by Richard Condon

(hb; 1986: second book in the Prizzi quadrilogy)

From the inside flap:

“We join the Prizzis, the ruling house of organized crime in the late sixties in New York: Charley Partanna, the thoughtful hit man who is in love with love; the devious, dangerous Maerose Prizzi who is in love with power; the deceptively doddering Don Corrado who is in love with the honor of his family – a family busy with gambling, extortion, narcotics, pornography, loan-sharking, prostitution, as well as such endeavors as recycling U.S. postage stamps into a $40-million-a-year industry, as the scene shifts from New York to Miami, to Dallas, to New Orleans, to Seattle and Yakima.

“All of this is under siege from the Electronic Church and one of its bizarre practitioners, George F. Mallon, a mayoral candidate running on a platform of corruption-free New York. To effect his clean-up crusade, Mallon must crack the family’s suzerainty, and his first target becomes Prizzi enforcer Charley Partanna.

“Mallon is not the only menace stalking Charley: Maerose, hot-blooded granddaughter of the ancient don of dons, is determined to marry Charley so she can take over leadership of the family and become an impossibility: the first woman don in Mafia history. Charley, meanwhile, has been hugely diverted by the mesmerizing beauty of Mardell La Tour, a mega-statuesque showgirl with more than a touch of madness in her otherwise ravishing head, an adventuress who is in love with fantasy. With Maerose, Mallon, and the extravagantly gorgeous Mardell all after his hide, Charley finds himself caught in a complex and desperate bind from which only a Houdini could escape… maybe.”


This prequel to Prizzi’s Honor is just as satirical, romantic and difficult to put down as its source novel. The returning characters and their attendant interlocking dramas are reader-involving and just as fresh as the first time around.

As with Honor, the finish is at once electrifying and funny, with an eye towards future Prizzi novels.

Followed by Prizzi’s Glory.

Another landmark work about the Life, this: well worth your time.

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