David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

Richard Condon’s Prizzi’s Money

Richard Condon's 'Prizzi's Money'This book review was originally published in the Virginian-Pilot and Ledger-Star on March 27, 1994.

When a man and a woman fall in love and one of them has connections to the Mafia, that’s tragedy. When a man and a woman fall in love and both of them have connections to the Mafia, that’s Richard Condon territory: a unique combination of satire, suspense, and melodrama where everyone’s got secrets to hide.

This premise, which worked so well in Condon’s novel Prizzi’s Honor, is the base for the fourth novel in the series, Prizzi’s Money. A thin but remarkably enjoyable novel, Money manages to be compulsively readable without reminding you that it’s miserly on substance.

To save their hides from impending financial collapse, billionaires Henry and Julia Asbury arrange for Henry to be kidnapped. This allows Julia to legally raid her husband’s companies for millions of dollars to pay for his ransom — plus a little extra for herself. Julia soon discovers that the $1 billion she’s soaked the Asbury Companies for isn’t really Henry’s at all; her husband’s empire belongs to the mega-crime family, the Prizzis.

A number of factors thwart the Prizzis from regaining their money. It turns out that Julia’s literally a member of the family, and to knock her off would be a breach of honor. She’s also got the media on her side, ready to blow the whistle to the public at any sign of foul play. Last is Ms. Asbury’s cunning ability to attract and seduce her potential assassins, not least of which is Charley Partanna, the Prizzis’ main vindicatore.

When Julia strikes a deal with the Prizzis about halfway through the book, Prizzi’s Money sinks disappointingly into a sea of love affairs and romantic Italian dinners. During the relentless double-dealing and backstabbing of the novel’s first half, however, Prizzi’s Money proves to be quite an entertaining ride.

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