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The Wicked Wives: A novel based on a true story [Kindle Edition]

Gus Pelagatti
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)

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Book Description

When I was an eight year old boy I overheard adults in my South Philadelphia neighborhood discussing 17 disenchanted and unfaithful neighborhood wives who murdered their husbands for insurance money, love and lust. This was a fascinating topic for an eight year old boy eavesdropping on adult conversation. The adults were discussing the true story of Philadelphia’s infamous 1938 murder scandals. My fascination led to obsession. I knew that I had to write about these wicked wives someday.

After I became a trial lawyer in 1964, I researched the poison murder cases in the law library and obtained newspaper accounts of the scandals dating back to October, 1938. Thereafter I conducted interviews with judges, lawyers, police, witnesses, sheriff deputies and neighbors who knew the defendants.

One of the chief conspirators was a tailor who seduced, then persuaded at least twelve wives to poison their husbands for insurance. The setting for his seductions was the couch in the rear of his tailor shop, located two blocks from our family home.

A fascinating conspiracy unfolded in these murder cases. The poison gang’s colorful and hilarious characters helped to deep-six a minimum of 20 husbands. The supporting cast includes Giorgio, “The Don Juan of Passyunk Avenue. ” Aside from scheming Lillian, “the society wife”, the wives include Rose, the “Kiss of Death Widow, ” Eva “the nymphomaniac” and the “hopelessly in love, ” Joanna.

After many comical episodes, intriguing detective work and two suspense filled high profile trials, 12 wives plead or are found guilty of murdering their husbands. Two male conspirators were executed in the electric chair.

"The Wicked Wives" gleefully explores the sins of lust and greed, and the disappointments that love often brings. The characters, although they commit murder and adultery, are extremely likable, and often amusing. Writing “The Wicked Wives” was a true labor of love.

Editorial Reviews


Gus Pelagatti is a genius!
Wicked Wives is a book that you can read quickly, because it's a page turner. Wicked Wives is a book that you can read quickly, because it's a page turner. It's full of action and suspense and it was a joy to read. The book is absolutely wonderful, and it is very easy to comprehend.
-Jenine Theresa

Would Make a Fantastic Movie
A true story from Philadelphia in 1938 that puzzled the police. Lovers, drugs, gangs, the mafia, secret meetings, big insurance policies, dead husbands....that is what the Wicked Wives were made of.
-Self-Publishing Review

The Wicked Wives of Philly
Are you a fan of True Crime stories? Made your way through Ann Rule's collection and is looking for a new author to discover? Sick of hearing that it's just the men that do the killing? The Wicked Wives is the perfect read for any crime buff.
-Paula Phillips

From the Author


Lillian Stoner:
The beautiful, blonde, snobbish society wife abandons her bankrupt husband Reggie to exchange sex for money with Bill Evans, her rich political uncle. She depends upon her lover Giorgio to feed her opium habit, and she conspires with him to murder her husband for insurance money.
Eva Russo:
The risqué redheaded nymph loves sex with men, the night life and gambling. In fact her unpaid gambling debts lead to punishment by the mafia. She buries two husbands for insurance money. But the one thing she desperately desires she can't have...Giorgio.
Joanna Napoli:
The bosomy gift shop owner is madly in love with Giorgio and is willing to do the unthinkable to marry him ... join Giorgio in a conspiracy to murder her drunken husband.
Rose Grady:
Another of Giorgio's playmates who conspires with him to bury three husbands and leaves the fourth to die at home before fleeing the city to avoid arrest. Her past earns her the name "Kiss of Death Widow." She always wears mourning black and a veil.
Sadie Lamb:
She owns a boarding house with her husband and rents rooms to three male borders. Sadie loves to play musical beds with her borders for a fee. Eventually all three borders and her husband have to be treated on the same day by a physician for a venereal disease. Giorgio persuades the borders to join a conspiracy to murder Sadie's husband for insurance money.


Giorgio DiSipio:
He is a mastermind conspirator -- a stunning lothario and local tailor who preys on lonely, disenchanted and unfaithful wives by convincing them to kill their spouses for insurance money. He is known to sexually service at least four women on the couch in the rear of his tailor shop in one day.
Boris "Rabbi" Feldman:
A colorful flimflam man and Giorgio's number one co-conspirator. He introduces many lonely wives to Giorgio and helps to seduce them. He knows where most of Giorgio's skeletons are buried.
Bruno Bianchi a/k/a "Giant":
The Giant is a tall man with gray hair and a mustache who sits in the passenger seat of a Buick driven by a mysterious lady in black dressed as though in mourning. She wears a thick black veil over her face to hide her identity. Giant systematically assassinates the poison conspiracy witnesses while the lady in black drives the get-away car.
Deputy Mayor Bill Evans:
He is the corrupt head of the Philadelphia Republican Party who is hell bent on protecting his niece Lillian Stoner from murder charges. He hates first Assistant Tom Rossi who won't help him to protect his niece Lillian from murder charges.


Tom Rossi:
He is the First Assistant D.A. assigned the job of arresting and prosecuting all conspirators including wives in the poison murders. He also wants to be elected D.A. but incurs the wrath of Deputy Mayor Evans when Rossi refuses to protect Evans' niece Lily from murder charges. Evans sets political machinery in motion to have Rossi disbarred as a lawyer.
Hope Daniels:
She and Tom Rossi are in love and want to marry. But Hope is part Negro, which Evans uses to incite bigoted Philadelphia voters against Rossi's quest to be elected D.A. Evans has Hope fired from her city job as a nurse for lying about her ethnic heritage on her job application. This action creates a dangerous crisis in her relationship with Tom.
Mike Fine, Chief of County Detectives:
Mike is a lean and mean fifty-five year old Jewish detective who had to grow up tolerating anti-Semitism. He is willing to protect the life of his best friend Tom Rossi at all times.
Lynn Sullivan:
She is Tom Rossi's stenographer who is hopelessly in love with her boss although he does not realize the depth of her affections for him. But she never gives up trying to win the man she adores.
District Attorney Pat Connors:
Pat is about to retire and lends advice to his heir apparent Tom Rossi
Bertha Brooks:
Bertha is another colorful character who is Lillian's neighbor and an eye-witness to critical facts involving murder.

Product Details

  • File Size: 434 KB
  • Print Length: 299 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0615674364
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (June 20, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005784LB4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #549,254 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reads Like A Piece of Juicy Fiction July 17, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
This novel is based on a true story. In 1938, 17 wives and their accomplices were arrested in Philadelphia for murdering their husbands. Behind the whole plot was Giorgio DiSipio, a true lothario. He was a local tailor with a revolving door of women. He would seduce them, help them to insure their husbands, then teach them how to kill them, all for his share of the insurance money.

It was extremely successful until a single assistant district attorney discovers the plot and does everything he can to hold the guilty parties accountable.

It is easy to forget this novel is based on a true story as it reads like a good piece of juicy fiction.

A bored housewife is never a good thing. These wives first have an affair with the tailor, then let him lead them down a wicked path of murder, all thinking they are in love with this guy. A guys whose sick wife is right upstairs. I wonder how he even had time to make any clothes with all the women coming and going. Sound like a plot for a soap opera doesn't it.

They made some mistakes and one man brought them down. The author takes us inside the investigation. The deceit, the corruption, the conspiracy. Plus the lust and sex. These women were no shrinking violets. There are the twists and turns to this story as well. The story is written by a trial lawyer that has done his research. Once you start reading you will have a very hard time putting this book down so plan accordingly. :)
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Wicked Wives January 20, 2013
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommend! October 8, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Wow! If you enjoy mystery, drama filled courtrooms and true crime, you won't want to miss Wicked Wives!

George is a tailor who does his best to make the unhappy wives happy. He is a Lothario, with only his best interest at heart. He not only gets many of the women to take out life insurance policies on their husbands before they kill them, but he makes sure he keeps them happy enough to get his own cut of the money.

Then, he dumps them and continues on to his next mark. He had a good system, never getting caught. The women couldn't accuse him of anything, lest they admit to their own guilt. But everything has a cost, and when District Attorney Tom Rossi begins to investigate, the carefully threaded path of George is soon unraveled.

Absolutely riveting! Pelagatti's novel that is based on a true story rings with authenticity. The settings are dated, nineteen twenties, and the clothing, dialogue and details are true to the period. I had a hard time putting the book down, I was so invested, that I wanted to know what was going to happen next! Make sure you set some time aside when you pick up this novel. It will grab ahold of you and not let go. Highly recommend!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read July 20, 2013
By Debi
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Full of suspense couldn't stop reading. What a twist. Wish there was more to the ending. Just leaves u to wonder
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars These are the naughtiest ladies ever April 10, 2013
First, let me get a little business out of the way. Gus Pelagatti did indeed approach me and asked for a review of his book. I promise anyone reading this that it is completely unbiased.

Eva Bell Fitzpatrick is a crazy, wildcard of a woman. She loves sex, gambling, danger, high times and good times. She also has a serious gambling addiction and owes a bundle of money to a powerful bookie who is demanding re-payment...or else!

She only married Dennis Fitzpatrick in order to make her secret lover, Giorgio DiSipio jealous. But Giorgio has so many different women; he doesn't have time to be jealous. He's too busy having fun, and making money off of a murderous scam that he's perpetuating.

So, what's a desperate housewife supposed to do when she needs money in a hurray? Well she does what any respectable lady in her position would do.

She takes out a double indemnity insurance policy on her husband. Then, she makes sure she's in proper position so that when his car explodes (with him inside of it), she can collect big-time.

"The Wicked Wives" is Gus Pelagatti's first novel, and hopefully it will not be his last. It is based on the infamous Philadelphia insurance/murder scandals of 1938 where 17 women were arrested for killing their husbands.

The book starts off at a rapid pace with the first killing taking place in the first chapter. It continues to move along swiftly until the first trial when things begin to slow down a bit.

It's filled with sex, political corruption, greed, and laced with a bit of humor. You'll wonder how these crazy people ever got away with what they were doing for as long as they had.

My favorite character in the novel was Tom Rossi, the assistant D.A.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Wicked Wives by Gus Pelagatti
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. I rated it 4 out of 5 stars. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Julianne Keller
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Scintillating !!!!!
An absolute must read! A sensual perspective of early 20th century Philadelphia. Sex, crime, MURDER!!!! Read more
Published 12 months ago by Yvonne - from Primavera Baby
5.0 out of 5 stars Let's Read it: Wicked Wives
Repost from elucidreams.blogspot(.)com

Teaser: An evil mastermind plays the role of a ladies man and uses his harem of black widows to turn murder into money in the... Read more
Published 18 months ago by A.N. lewis
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 stars!
I received a copy of The Wicked Wives by Gus Pelagatti in exchange for an honest review.

When I was an eight year old boy I overheard adults in my South... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Sara Palacios
4.0 out of 5 stars Wow definately wicked

This is a well told story. Can't believe all the murders for money.
This is based on a true story it also has a suspenseful question of who was the lady... Read more
Published 19 months ago by rhonda
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Wicked indeed!
Read from February 23 to 25, 2013


"Wicked Wives" is based on the true story of the 1938 Philadelphia murder scandals in which seventeen wives... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Jackie Burris
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting crime novel
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... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Mardel
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it
The Wicked Wives . . . . A novel based on a true story
Gus Pelagatti

This book is based on 5 women; Lillian Stoner the opium addict, Eva Russo the gambler, Joanna... Read more
Published 20 months ago by David Ramsey
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting 3.5 Stars!
Gus Pellagatti's 'Wicked Wives' is a fascinating and intriguing read. There were so many moments that I was caught up and absorbed in his writing and storyline. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Bex 'N' Books
4.0 out of 5 stars Smooth-Talking 'Don Juan' Gets Disenchanted Wives to Commit Murder For...
'The Wicked Wives: A Novel Based on a True Story' is a story set in Depression-Era Philadelphia and filled with murder, corruption, treachery, love and lust written about in vivid... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Mareena McGirr
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More About the Author

Gus Pelagatti is a Philadelphia trial lawyer with almost 47 years of civil and criminal experience. His book, The Wicked Wives, is based on the true story of the 1938 Philadelphia poison scandals. 17 unfaithful wives were arrested with their lovers for poisoning their husbands to death for insurance money. The chief conspirator was a tailor whose shop and apartment were situated two blocks from his parents' home in South Philly. Gus interviewed Judges, lawyers,
detectives, witnesses and neighbors all directly involved in prosecution of the wives.

More information about Gus Pelagatti can be found at and about his book, "The Wicked Wives" at

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