The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed Murder, madness, glamour, and greed. Yep, I'd say that pretty well covers it.

"One of the first status labels" to emerge after World War II, the Gucci luxury goods company, most noted for its shoes and bags, started with a small shop opened by Guccio Gucci in Florence, Italy, in 1921. Surviving an earlier cheap "drugstore image," the international, multimillion-dollar business "was imprinted on the American mentality as top-of-the-line chic," in the 1970s.

Behind the scenes, however (and often more publicly), the Gucci fortunes traced an erratic course that was probably predictable, the author points out, in light of the family's "individualistic and haughty" Tuscan character: "arrogant, self-sufficient, and closed to outsiders." Two of Guccio's sons, Aldo and Rodolfo, alternately fought and made up, and the family tensions escalated into the third generation when their sons, particularly Paolo and the charismatic Maurizio, intensified the conflicts among and between generations.

Often endangered by hostile takeovers and damaging business and government run-ins, the Gucci firm recovered some of its old glitz in the late 1990s. By the turn of the century, under the guidance of a foreign investment firm, it has resolidified its business base and entered into a brilliant partnership with the Yves Saint Laurent label. Its edgier "power look" seems to promise great strides under new management, and more celebrity for the Gucci name.

So much for the glamour and greed. The madness, aside from typical excesses not uncommon in the high-fashion world, is linked to the murder of Maurizio in 1995. The person convicted of instigating the murder is behind bars, and was one of some 100 persons interviewed by Forden, the former Milan bureau chief for Women's Wear Daily. The parade of hot shot lawyers and business experts is never-ending, and they all have their say, through Forden's pen. The successive acts of the Gucci spectacle will keep the pages turning and readers anxious to turn to the newspapers for further news of this ongoing drama.

Maude McDaniel writes from Cumberland, Maryland.

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