The suspicious death of a New York retail tycoon reveals dangerous cracks in a family’s foundation in this page-turning novel of wealth, jealousy, betrayal, and murder
One of New York’s most elegant and exclusive retail establishments, Tarkington’s has been the preferred shopping experience of Manhattan’s elite for decades. But the unexpected death of founder Silas Tarkington has raised serious doubts about the future of the enterprise, and his daughter, Miranda, must weigh the pros and cons of continuing her father’s legacy. Then, at the reading of Silas’s will, disturbing questions arise about the tycoon’s past and suggestions of a dark, secret life threaten to tear the family apart. For Miranda; her elegant socialite mother, Consuelo; her estranged son, Blazer; and Diana, the fieriest and most recent in the late entrepreneur’s long line of mistresses, the truth could destroy much more than the family business—especially as it becomes more and more likely that Silas’s death was no accident.
Author Stephen Birmingham has spent his career documenting the lives of the wealthy and powerful in his bestsellers “Our Crowd” and “The Rest of Us”. Putting his unique inside knowledge of the privileged world of the upper crust to excellent use, he has devised a thrilling story of money, power, deception, and treachery that will keep the reader eagerly turning its pages.
Birmingham ( Our Crowd ; America's Secret Aristocracy ) may have spent much of his career chronicling the mores of the elite, but his rich are different from you and me chiefly in that no one could mistake them for anything but characters in a potboiler. Here, he starts out viably enough, reporting the death of Sy Tarkington, the super-wealthy founder of a legendary New York store that serves the so-called carriage trade. We learn that the circumstances surrounding Sy's death are mighty questionable; that Sy's idiosyncratic accounting practices may have been a screen for near-bankruptcy; that Sy was cheating on his stalwart, blue-blooded wife with the store's dashing jewelry buyer; that his life prior to founding the store is a complete mystery even to his own children; that he has ties to the underworld; and so on. The effort of juggling all these chestnuts exhausts Birmingham. While he can handle some of them with dexterity (Sy's emporium is an especially well-conceived arena), he frequently surrenders to soap-opera stereotypes and stock dialogue, or resolves plotting problems with lots of coincidences. By the time he orchestrates a finale, however, his vigor has deserted him altogether and he wraps up loose ends (even important ones, such as who killed Sy Tarkington) without so much as a gesture at believability.