The Countess and the Mob: The untold story of Marajen Stevick Chinigo and Mafia lord Johnny Rosselli
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (7/11)
The back cover of “The Countess and the Mob” briefly outlined the character of a certain Marajen Stevick Chinigo, someone I have never heard about, promising an interesting book about a strong-willed rich girl with big dreams. If that would not be interesting enough, it promised the story as told by the countess’s bodyguard, the author Maureen Hughes. Most of us like juicy stories and entertaining gossip, so I was more than ready to immerse myself into some powerfully personal stories.
Well, the first blow came already in the prologue. It turns out that Ms. Hughes provided personal security to the countess during her stay in the hospital that lasted “a couple of days.” For some reason the description on the back cover made me think that there was some lasting, deep relationship between the author and the countess, but it turned out that in addition to those few days in the hospital there was only one other brief glimpse that Ms. Hughes caught of the countess at a local art museum. Somehow those two were enough to make her want to learn as much as possible about the extremely charismatic Marajen Stevick Chinigo. She proceeded to gather information, interviewing people from the countess’s past, as well as consulting some of the available literature.
The result of this is an amusing, at times wickedly funny, and always entertaining view of Marajen Stevick Chinigo’s colorful life as well as her alleged connections to the mob. While I do not doubt that the author did research her subject, unnamed sources or those known only by some generic nicknames are simply not enough for me to take anything as the truth. And there were enough allegations about different criminal activities thrown in the book to start a serious firework display if they were all to explode; among others John Hirschfeld’s offer to bomb Yugoslavia if the allegations about his embezzling were dropped, as well as some interesting tidbits related to the assassination of President John Kennedy.
The lack of credible, named sources made the story less than convincing, and the utter lack of editing made it difficult to read at times. There were missing words, repeated parts of sentences, typos and more. I am also still trying to figure out what exactly was served at the party where the food was described as “Her food menu would include such foods as sautéed gras caviar with trimmings and champagne, to impress her list of elite guests.” Fatty caviar? Sautéed foie gras with caviar?
“The Countess and the Mob” was an amusing, entertaining book, and if taken as light reading, quite charming, but I would certainly not risk quoting it as an authoritative source on anything mob-related.