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Intricate, superbly written, often scathingly funny - a brilliantly crafted tapestry of ambition, family secrets, murder, integrity tested, and justice has gone terribly wrong. An extraordinary fiction debut: a large, stirring novel of suspense that is, at the same time, a work of brilliantly astute social observation. The Emperor of Ocean Park is set in two privileged worl Intricate, superbly written, often scathingly funny - a brilliantly crafted tapestry of ambition, family secrets, murder, integrity tested, and justice has gone terribly wrong. An extraordinary fiction debut: a large, stirring novel of suspense that is, at the same time, a work of brilliantly astute social observation. The Emperor of Ocean Park is set in two privileged worlds: the upper crust African American society of the eastern seaboard--old families who summer on Martha's Vineyard--and the inner circle of an Ivy League law school. It tells the story of a complex family with a single, seductive link to the shadowlands of crime. The Emperor of the title, Judge Oliver Garland, has just died, suddenly. A brilliant legal mind, conservative and famously controversial, Judge Garland made more enemies than friends. Many years before, he'd earned a judge's highest prize: a Supreme Court nomination. But in a scene of bitter humiliation, televised across the country, his nomination collapsed in scandal. The humbling defeat became a private agony, one from which he never recovered. But now the Judge's death raises, even more, questions--and it seems to be leading to a second, even more, terrible scandal. Could Oliver Garland have been murdered? He has left a strange message for his son Talcott, a professor of law at a great university, entrusting him with "the arrangements"--a mysterious puzzle that only Tal can unlock, and only by unearthing the ambiguities of his father's past. When another man is found dead, and then another, Talcott--wry, straight-arrow, almost too self-aware to be a man of action--must risk his career, his marriage, and even his life, following the clues his father left him. Intricate, superbly written, often scathingly funny, The Emperor of Ocean Park is a triumphant work of fiction, packed with character and incident--a brilliantly crafted tapestry of ambition, family secrets, murder, integrity tested, and justice has gone terribly wrong.


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Intricate, superbly written, often scathingly funny - a brilliantly crafted tapestry of ambition, family secrets, murder, integrity tested, and justice has gone terribly wrong. An extraordinary fiction debut: a large, stirring novel of suspense that is, at the same time, a work of brilliantly astute social observation. The Emperor of Ocean Park is set in two privileged worl Intricate, superbly written, often scathingly funny - a brilliantly crafted tapestry of ambition, family secrets, murder, integrity tested, and justice has gone terribly wrong. An extraordinary fiction debut: a large, stirring novel of suspense that is, at the same time, a work of brilliantly astute social observation. The Emperor of Ocean Park is set in two privileged worlds: the upper crust African American society of the eastern seaboard--old families who summer on Martha's Vineyard--and the inner circle of an Ivy League law school. It tells the story of a complex family with a single, seductive link to the shadowlands of crime. The Emperor of the title, Judge Oliver Garland, has just died, suddenly. A brilliant legal mind, conservative and famously controversial, Judge Garland made more enemies than friends. Many years before, he'd earned a judge's highest prize: a Supreme Court nomination. But in a scene of bitter humiliation, televised across the country, his nomination collapsed in scandal. The humbling defeat became a private agony, one from which he never recovered. But now the Judge's death raises, even more, questions--and it seems to be leading to a second, even more, terrible scandal. Could Oliver Garland have been murdered? He has left a strange message for his son Talcott, a professor of law at a great university, entrusting him with "the arrangements"--a mysterious puzzle that only Tal can unlock, and only by unearthing the ambiguities of his father's past. When another man is found dead, and then another, Talcott--wry, straight-arrow, almost too self-aware to be a man of action--must risk his career, his marriage, and even his life, following the clues his father left him. Intricate, superbly written, often scathingly funny, The Emperor of Ocean Park is a triumphant work of fiction, packed with character and incident--a brilliantly crafted tapestry of ambition, family secrets, murder, integrity tested, and justice has gone terribly wrong.

30 review for The Emperor of Ocean Park

  1. 4 out of 5

    Felice Laverne

    **As a note, this novel is listed in my GR "bio" as one of my favorite reads of all time! I wrote this review a few years ago, but I still have this book on my living room shelf. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it (!!) if you love thrillers, intelligent mysteries with puzzles, a level of erudite language and complex concepts, and reading accurate accounts of the small minority of minorities known as the upper echelon of black society (or, as W.E.B. DuBois called it, the Talented Tenth).** The Emperor of O **As a note, this novel is listed in my GR "bio" as one of my favorite reads of all time! I wrote this review a few years ago, but I still have this book on my living room shelf. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it (!!) if you love thrillers, intelligent mysteries with puzzles, a level of erudite language and complex concepts, and reading accurate accounts of the small minority of minorities known as the upper echelon of black society (or, as W.E.B. DuBois called it, the Talented Tenth).** The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter hit the shelves with guns blazing over a decade ago, spurred by a multi-million-dollar book deal and rave reviews. His debut fiction novel, it stood out from the pack in that it’s written around the most highly educated of black society’s upper echelon and, more so, because it was written by a member of that very caste rather than by an outsider trying to immolate the nuances, prejudices, experiences and insights that could only be accurately and convincingly portrayed by one of their own. (Think Jhumpa Lahiri and Hanif Kureishi—this too can be considered a cultural exposé, embedded within a brilliant thrill ride, in the same vein.) The demographic that Carter writes around really is a lesser-known, lesser-publicized world of its own that necessitates candid unmasking by a member of the tribe itself. This novel was a combination of mystery and conspiracy thriller, complete with antagonists lurking in the dark, the hint of extramarital affairs, academic and political betrayal and the scent of conspiracy in the air. Was murder involved or natural death? Was the Judge wrongfully accused and disgraced, or was he secretly deserving of his fate, the baddest of all bad guys behind closed political doors? This one also featured eloquently delivered, thoughtful prose that had the unmistakable lilt of a law professor’s seriousness without being staid. Indeed, it was emotive where it needed to be, while still offering those sharp references to societal issues--I am old enough to remember when few black women of her age wore their hair any other way, but nationalism turned out to be less an ideology than a fad being one of my personal favorites and certainly representative of his tone—that are jolting and appreciated for their wit, insight and stunning logical clarity. Chess was at the center of this novel—a true Chess Master’s feast. It enveloped the plot line with an inventory of references that were brilliantly tied into the mystery and intrigue of the work, rather than simply being intellectual props for show. Carter even wove these allusions into his social commentary in a way that was graceful and not ostentatious, though some might consider it mildly pretentious—and why not? He’s writing with a hint of pretentiousness that makes his voice his own. I appreciated that voice and found his method, his cadence of tone, to be thrilling in a new way. I love a great thriller with heart-quickening twists and turns as much as the next thriller junkie, but an author who can write in this genre while evoking serious social deliberation and eloquence of finesse? It’s a feat often tried but seldom achieved with greatness, and I was caught off guard by the magnitude of his writing, by the eloquence of innuendos and by the fact that he managed to uncover this “hidden” world to the masses while still making it feel like a secret. In fact, I’d venture to say that a reader who could follow his intention, and who appreciates a view into the inner workings of dirty American politics, would feel that they’d been let in on a secret. And who doesn’t love to be let in on a secret? While this novel is easily one of my all-time favorites for the plot line that kept me guessing and the delivery that made me a fan, it isn’t without its own Achilles’ heel. The Emperor could definitely have stood up to a haircut—snip a little here, shave a little there. While the word count itself was certainly not to be considered massive comparative to some, the style of writing and tendency towards verboseness of narrative at times made the novel feel more massive than it was, and the task of reading through the backstory of every minor character could be tedious. However, he is a master with creating characters; their voices were genuine and all their own, from hoity-toity “Lady Bugs” to self-entitled Trump-sound-alikes. With that in mind, yes, his editor definitely should have chopped it down a bit just to streamline this work, however would this then have been the cozy thriller that it was had they done so? Maybe not. I set aside the temptation towards docking this one a 1/2 star for the same reason that I did so with my last Stephen King review, because there’s no need to be petty. 5 stars. ***** FOLLOW ME HERE: Art + Deco Agency Book Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Art + Deco Publishing Agency

  2. 4 out of 5

    Roy

    The fact that this book explores university politics featuring east coast black upper-middle class characters made it stand out from the pack, but once you get over this facet (which I did pretty quickly), what you're left with is a well written and fairly intriguing mystery, more memorable than some I've read, less so than others. I suppose a book like this one is an antidote to the urban/hip hop/gangsta/etc. genre of "literature", not so much because it features black characters who are articu The fact that this book explores university politics featuring east coast black upper-middle class characters made it stand out from the pack, but once you get over this facet (which I did pretty quickly), what you're left with is a well written and fairly intriguing mystery, more memorable than some I've read, less so than others. I suppose a book like this one is an antidote to the urban/hip hop/gangsta/etc. genre of "literature", not so much because it features black characters who are articulate, educated and well to do, but because it was written by someone who fits this description. Ultimately I could care less if the narrator of a novel I'm reading is a college professor or a drug dealing pimp. I only care that the story is absorbing and the characters ring true, and this book did a decent if not quite extraordinary job of accomplishing that feat.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    Even though it took me FOREVER to finish, I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. Had it been 100-200 pages shorter and the editing a bit tighter, I would have given it a five star rating. The characters are what drew me into the book and kept me there. While I've certainly seen and known educated and upper middle class African Americans like Talcott aka Misha (a law professor)and his wife Kimmer (a lawyer) in real life, I've rarely encountered them in the world of fiction and never with Even though it took me FOREVER to finish, I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. Had it been 100-200 pages shorter and the editing a bit tighter, I would have given it a five star rating. The characters are what drew me into the book and kept me there. While I've certainly seen and known educated and upper middle class African Americans like Talcott aka Misha (a law professor)and his wife Kimmer (a lawyer) in real life, I've rarely encountered them in the world of fiction and never with the kind of depth or complexity they're lent in this novel. In a nutshell, this book is about Misha's attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding his father's death as well as uncover the details of the "arrangements" his father, a conservative, African American judge, was said to have left for him. While I didn't always agree or understand Misha's choices, I found him utterly fascinating and I couldn't help but root for him. His wife, Kimmer, on the other hand was a different story. I don't think I've ever run across more unlikeable character (LOL) and I found it difficult to understand Misha's desire to stay in their troubled marriage. Overall, I found the book a compelling read and I'm looking forward to reading more of Mr. Carter's fiction.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David

    This was one of the moodiest books I have ever read. A well-to-do African American family come together for the funeral of the family patriarch, a judge who once was in the running for a Supreme Court seat, but because of his connection with "Uncle Jack," a shadowy underworld figure, removed himself from consideration in disgrace. This author is one of the best "mood-setters" I have ever read. He is able to describe alternately the joy of raising a child and the delight of discovering life throu This was one of the moodiest books I have ever read. A well-to-do African American family come together for the funeral of the family patriarch, a judge who once was in the running for a Supreme Court seat, but because of his connection with "Uncle Jack," a shadowy underworld figure, removed himself from consideration in disgrace. This author is one of the best "mood-setters" I have ever read. He is able to describe alternately the joy of raising a child and the delight of discovering life through that child's eyes and then the sorrow of suspecting your spouse is not being faithful. The hero, Talcott, watches his life slowly crumble before him as his father's secrets slowly come to light. People want to know about his father's "arrangements" and others keep pushing him to find out more. He wrestles with memories of his father's alcoholic period, the loss of a sister, the estrangement of an older brother, at the same time dealing with annoying people in his family AND professional life as a law professor. As the secrets are revealed, Talcott struggles to come to grips with who and what his father really was. There is one main mystery, but it is wrapped in careful layers, like an onion, and slowly peels off, one delectable bit at a time. The author is careful to never give us too much of the mystery's solution at a time, while providing wonderful details about the professor's life and family. He does this is such a well-balanced way that just about the time the reader thinks he is going nowhere, a little crumb of the mystery keeps the pages turning in search of another morsel. I was also impressed with the author's ability to get "in-your-face" with spiritual values. The hero has several "counseling sessions" with a Baptist minister and the dialogue in those portions of the book are powerful- offering solid spiritual insights without apologies. In one party scene, an agnostic scholar squares off with the minister character about the existence of God and the result is shocking to find in a secular novel. In summary, all I can say is WOW! What a carefully crafted work of art.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    For almost a week Bob and I didn't talk to each other much. That's because he had his nose in this 800+ page book for the first part of the week, and I had mine in it for the second part. Unlike legal thrillers penned by other legally trained writers (e.g. Grisham, Turow, and Baldacci), this book is not one dimensional. It is complex, and the language is rich. It is a window into the world of affluent/well-educated members of the "darker nation" and the book unfolds like layers being peeled away For almost a week Bob and I didn't talk to each other much. That's because he had his nose in this 800+ page book for the first part of the week, and I had mine in it for the second part. Unlike legal thrillers penned by other legally trained writers (e.g. Grisham, Turow, and Baldacci), this book is not one dimensional. It is complex, and the language is rich. It is a window into the world of affluent/well-educated members of the "darker nation" and the book unfolds like layers being peeled away. I may also have enjoyed it because I happened to agree with a lot of the musings of the protagonist and also appreciated the portrait of a flawed human being trying to live out his life and the faith which he professes.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Plsullivan023

    Carter has an extraordinary command of the English language. One of the most compelling books I've read, primarily for the vocabulary gymnastics. I was sent to my dictionary more than once. However, the plot line of this mystery is secondary to the breadth of Carter's knowledge of human nature. I also take exception to so many evidentiary holes in the mystery that are explained later -- getting the answer before we even know the reason for the question. Author Carter's sometimes unreliable fir Carter has an extraordinary command of the English language. One of the most compelling books I've read, primarily for the vocabulary gymnastics. I was sent to my dictionary more than once. However, the plot line of this mystery is secondary to the breadth of Carter's knowledge of human nature. I also take exception to so many evidentiary holes in the mystery that are explained later -- getting the answer before we even know the reason for the question. Author Carter's sometimes unreliable first person protagonist's stream of consciousnous and niavete juxtaposed with self-discovery and cynicism keeps one's interest. In places, it is easy to assume that the novel was written over a span of time as Kimmer's relationship with Nellie feels contrived and not realistic.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Cecile

    I love big books and big ideas. I enjoyed reading this but was a little disappointed that the privileged African-Americans were just a description of the characters because their class and race were, for the most part, inconsequential to the story. They could have been Irish, French, middle class, etc. Good story, with numerous threads that were sometimes difficult to follow, but I just expected more about this particular demographic. Also well-written.

  8. 5 out of 5

    C.

    What's funny is that the very reason I loved this book so much at first is the reason I sort of was bored at the end -- the mystery is almost secondary to the the characters and relationships in the book. A number of the reviews have said the book was slow, but for the first 3/4 of the book, that didn't bother me at all. I actually liked how, instead of a real "who done it" mystery, Carter just really set up a great cast of characters, and only slowly set out even hints that there was a murder. What's funny is that the very reason I loved this book so much at first is the reason I sort of was bored at the end -- the mystery is almost secondary to the the characters and relationships in the book. A number of the reviews have said the book was slow, but for the first 3/4 of the book, that didn't bother me at all. I actually liked how, instead of a real "who done it" mystery, Carter just really set up a great cast of characters, and only slowly set out even hints that there was a murder. The problem was that, the book picked up momentum, built to a false-climax, then settled back in to a long, slow meandering towards the final climax. It was the same writing as before, but after Carter got the ball rolling, it was frustrating (and boring) to switch back to the easy pacing of before. Also, the final twist? Really lamely unbelievable, to the point of being laugh out loud funny. Which is too bad, since I loved most of the book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lois

    This truly is well done. I like Mr Carter's tone and the relaxed and personable manner in which his story unfolds. His use of language is lyrically elevated, slightly pretentious but not unapproachable or condescending. He offers multiple views on society, racism, poverty, etc that we are not familiar with in relation to Black American literary characters and he handles this balance well. He needs a better editor but at the same time this is incredible for a first novel. I'll read his other book This truly is well done. I like Mr Carter's tone and the relaxed and personable manner in which his story unfolds. His use of language is lyrically elevated, slightly pretentious but not unapproachable or condescending. He offers multiple views on society, racism, poverty, etc that we are not familiar with in relation to Black American literary characters and he handles this balance well. He needs a better editor but at the same time this is incredible for a first novel. I'll read his other books but I'm probably going to need to a break. Too many words and I just am not sure I've ever had that complaint of a novel before.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jonetta

    This was a good story but could have been a lot shorter...too descriptive throughout. I found myself thinking, "Move on! I got it.". But, the story is worth the read. This was a good story but could have been a lot shorter...too descriptive throughout. I found myself thinking, "Move on! I got it.". But, the story is worth the read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Martin Clark

    Great book--intricate, well written and entertaining.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joan Early

    Reading The Emperor of Ocean Park reminded me of the classics that took forever to finish. Stephen L. Carter is a great storyteller. I understand our fascination with brevity and applaud the concept, though I often want more. This novel delivers. A family in turmoil with race as a factor, not a focus, is reading I enjoy. The suspense builds slowly, but the characters are interesting enough to hold my interest. Keep writing fiction, Mr. Carter.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael David Cobb

    The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter. is a quite compelling if not evenly flowing or artistic read. It's an ambitious book that works on many different levels. As a first time novelist, Carter should have stuck to one or two, but in the end you are glad that he didn't.[return][return]As a thriller, it bites you slo-o-o-wly. I get the feeling that if Carter weren't so interested in putting us in his protagonist's stubborn and provincial shoes, we might figure out exactly what is going t The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter. is a quite compelling if not evenly flowing or artistic read. It's an ambitious book that works on many different levels. As a first time novelist, Carter should have stuck to one or two, but in the end you are glad that he didn't.[return][return]As a thriller, it bites you slo-o-o-wly. I get the feeling that if Carter weren't so interested in putting us in his protagonist's stubborn and provincial shoes, we might figure out exactly what is going to happen next. Of course you cannot guess because the twists and surprises go for almost 650 pages. The thriller could have been shortened by half. But if we were to do that, we would have had to make the protagonist less harried and more intrigued.[return][return]Talcott Garland is not intrigued, he is haunted by being the scion of a legendary judge and patriarch who has set in motion wrecking ball from the grave aimed directly at his upper middle-class life. Carter is not content to trace the trajectory of this wrecking ball as it crashes through the many windows and wall of Garland's complicated life - no that would be a thriller. Rather he draws out the contemplations of a man who may by his actions and reactions to the threats of this wrecking ball, may be going insane, or who may be becoming a hero. And since Talcott Garland is a member of the darker nation, Carter has reinscribed a new class of Negroes into the duBoisian dilemma of dual consciousness. What's so thrilling about that?[return][return]What's thrilling about it is that this is certainly what Carter must know he is doing. And as we like to say in the black upper middle class, 'this sets us back 100 years'. But that's just one angle on this story and I'll leave it at that.[return][return]Carter also injects a healthy dose of his most potent moralizing into the conscience of Talcott Garland who is forever trying to keep his wits and perspective about him. While he is surrounded by a whirlwind of manipulators and players, he tries desperately to play it straight. Talcott Garland has no guile to rely upon which gives him the courage to fight. Yet his abiding faith in his ability to recover the love of his cheating wife alone and finally serve honorably as head of his family pushes him to seek answers to the questions he'd rather not know. Garland comes armed with a host of virtues sown deeply in the ways and means of the talented tenth, but they are supplied not inherently but through his extended family. Each of a dozen family members and friends has a slice of those virtues and each imparts a bit of strength or knowledge upon poor Talcott as he valiantly struggles to unlock the mystery.[return][return]Furthermore as a story of the times, of the moral mishmash of career ambitions in academia and in Washington, it's a marvelous book that continues his non-fiction scolding by other means.[return][return]What absolutely floored me was the patience evidenced in the setting of traps by certain characters - there's not much you hear about anything so subtle in any fictional intrigue which has such a long horizon. Instead you hear the reverse, that mistakes made are long hid and only newly discovered by the hounding media or political opposition but that once discovered they are immediately brought to bear.[return][return]Further, I think Carter does an admirable job of bringing race in and out of focus naturally as the story progresses, which is how it happens in life.[return][return]It's a very ambitious book and quite a tall order for any writer. As an artist he's not quite up to the task. Although there are a number of gems in the form of page-long paragraphs you can just tell couldn't be dickered with, most of the writing is just writing. His habit of dropping annoying little bomblets of discovery at the very end of his chapters serves the purpose of helping keep parts of Talcott's recognition obscured to the reader, but gets tiresome. But the ending 200 pages makes up for it, given Talcott's final machinations and collaborations.[return][return]I think the book is a bit chaptery, and it comes as no surprise that he created 64 to coincide with the number of squares on a chessboard, but I would have liked Talcott to be a lot more chess-wise in his thinking. Even having him think "protect the queen" would have been better. Also I think Talcott needed to be frayed a lot more. It would have drawn me in deeper. One never gets the feeling that Talcott's ruination would evoke in him the ugly side of losing one's status, I didn't sense his contempt for his potential lower-class neighbors, or his sense of how he would adapt. Talcott's mushy self-esteem is not a compelling place for a reader, but it does serve the purposes of Carter's moral lecture...[return][return]Carter's imagery of Martha's Vineyard is not so descriptive so much as evocative for those who already have some emotional resonance with the place. But I found myself riding along on the ferry, gazing of the cliffs at Gay Head and lazily walking the Circuit along with him.[return][return]The book is fascinating and bears up under different layers of scrutiny. That is what makes it good, and a must read for those of us who have shared, at various points in our life, the muddled consciousness of Talcott Garland.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Williams

    My mystery book club read this many years ago. Excellent read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Todd Huish

    I don't know what it is about lawyers writing complicated thrillers but, evidently, they're pretty good at it. I think Grisham is the one everyone knows but after reading "The Emporer of Ocean Park" I say there's a new gun in town and his name is Stephen L. Carter. I heard about this book on NPR during its media blitz and his interview was sufficiently interesting enough to get me to try it out. A lot of books I get from NPR aren't always the most riveting or nearly as interesting as they first I don't know what it is about lawyers writing complicated thrillers but, evidently, they're pretty good at it. I think Grisham is the one everyone knows but after reading "The Emporer of Ocean Park" I say there's a new gun in town and his name is Stephen L. Carter. I heard about this book on NPR during its media blitz and his interview was sufficiently interesting enough to get me to try it out. A lot of books I get from NPR aren't always the most riveting or nearly as interesting as they first sounded once I start to read them. Thankfully this one blew my expectations away. Once I started I couldn't stop, eschewing socializing and sleep for reading this book. All the cliches apply. I was on the edge of my seat, it was a nail biter, a page turner. All true, and all words I'd use to describe just about any Grisham novel. The difference being that I describe those also as cotton candy and that would never apply to this book. Carter manages to never pander or insult my intelligence and at the same time expects me to get certain references without explanation. I don't see that in nearly enough books and it always gives me a thrill when it happens. The only bump in the road was that I am not a member of what he refers to as "the darker nation". Which means I didn't necessarily identify with some of the themes or problems in the book. Whether this a lack of empathy on my part or just an indicator of the race problem in America, I'm not sure. I just found the frequent references slightly jarring. Much more so earlier in the book than later. It may be like reading an Irvine Welsh novel, where everything's spelled in Scottish dialect, or Ray Bradbury, where every description is as flowery as possible, you just have to get used to it and then it fades to the background. Don't let that last paragraph turn you off from reading this book. If you like thrillers at all, you deserve to let Carter show you one done better.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    This is the best mystery I have read in a long, long time and wonder where I was when it first came out. Stephen Carter writes extremely well and creates fleshy characters with class and depth. His plot is rich with revelations and twists and the pace is good. It is also a thoughtful, sensitive novel which allows its major players to interact in intelligent ways. Talcott Garland is a law professor at an unnamed Ivy League law school and is married to Kimberly, a lawyer in the running for a posi This is the best mystery I have read in a long, long time and wonder where I was when it first came out. Stephen Carter writes extremely well and creates fleshy characters with class and depth. His plot is rich with revelations and twists and the pace is good. It is also a thoughtful, sensitive novel which allows its major players to interact in intelligent ways. Talcott Garland is a law professor at an unnamed Ivy League law school and is married to Kimberly, a lawyer in the running for a position on the United States Court of Appeals. Garland comes from a judicial background his father being a one-time candidate for the United States Supreme Court. When the story opens, his father has died and it is soon discovered there are many secrets surrounding the elder Garland's life and death. These secrets are being sought by people who don't care much how they learn them. During the course of the family's investigation into "the arrangements," Talcott's life is endangered and he is tailed by shadow men. The threats are real, but he has no idea why he is being threatened. His private and public life is changed by his search for the truth and there are the usual politics of academia that no professor can escape. Talcott soon learns the identities of his friends and enemies and much about himself along the way. Quotes: "Talcott: "I am depressed. And I almost like it. Depression is seductive; it offends and teases, frightens you and draws you in, tempting you with its promise of sweet oblivion, then overwhelming you with a nearly sexual power, squirming past your defenses, dissolving your will, invading the tired spirit so utterly that it becomes difficult to recall that you ever lived without it....to be depressed is to be half in love with disaster." Talcott: "In today's America, and certainly in the Garland family, nothing is the fault of the person who does it. Everything is the fault of the person who blows the whistle."

  17. 4 out of 5

    William

    The Emperor of Ocean Park, which dedicates quite a number of pages to the game of chess its narrator loves, is itself a sort of chess match. Author Carter runs multiple sophisticated plots concurrently through the story, making Emperor a novel of academia, of racial and professional politics (here often identically aimed), a straight-up legal thriller, and a story of an already disintegrating family coping with the loss of its domineering patriarch – all of which somehow meld into a coherent and The Emperor of Ocean Park, which dedicates quite a number of pages to the game of chess its narrator loves, is itself a sort of chess match. Author Carter runs multiple sophisticated plots concurrently through the story, making Emperor a novel of academia, of racial and professional politics (here often identically aimed), a straight-up legal thriller, and a story of an already disintegrating family coping with the loss of its domineering patriarch – all of which somehow meld into a coherent and satisfying finale. But Carter's great creation is Talcott Garland, a persona whose intelligence and intellectual accomplishment combine with an initial innocence, even naivete, about the turpitude he discovers on all fronts. Talcott's ability to remain a character true to his own strictly defined moral standards – within a community of nefarious, if well-crafted, personalities -- carry the novel to some of its best epiphanies and most memorable asides. Without Talcott, there simply wouldn’t be a novel, and for a fiction that can ask for perhaps more than the typical amount of patience of its readers, he is quite literally the center of gravity around which the entire work, and its fictive world, revolve.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gigi

    A father dies and his son must figure out what secrets he has left behind. Others also want to know what the "arrangements" are and so begins the book. I tend to not read a lot of suspense books but I enjoyed this one. There are times where the side stories take a little too much ink but I feel that many of the side stories added to the depth of the story so you never knew which people or bits of information were important to the main plot and which supported the subplots. I also liked how the m A father dies and his son must figure out what secrets he has left behind. Others also want to know what the "arrangements" are and so begins the book. I tend to not read a lot of suspense books but I enjoyed this one. There are times where the side stories take a little too much ink but I feel that many of the side stories added to the depth of the story so you never knew which people or bits of information were important to the main plot and which supported the subplots. I also liked how the main character still had to live his life while trying to figure out who is father was. He didn't drop everything and needs so this mystery is woven around his life. Time actually passes...he has real concerns that don't have to do with his father. He is trying to find a balance where most suspense books suspend everyday needs.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jason Haynes

    This was a good, fun read. Carter enjoys playing the mystery writer and he is at his best in this novel. None of his subsequent works quite reach the craft practiced here. For that and his description of the elites of Black America, this novel is a terrific read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    William

    Hated it..Soap opera from a conservative Yale professor..please..needs to stick to his day job.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bryan R.

    This is one of the best books I ever read. It is part thriller, part peak into black Martha's Vineyard, part academia. So many interesting twists and characters. This is one of the best books I ever read. It is part thriller, part peak into black Martha's Vineyard, part academia. So many interesting twists and characters.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Stephen Carter, is a unique talent: a prize-winning writer of both fiction and non-fiction, he is also a law professor at Yale University. The Emperor of Ocean Park derives its title from the sobriquet given by a magazine to Judge Oliver Garland, a key but short-lived character. This is an astounding novel that feels like non-fiction in many ways, a book filled with ideas and lots of moving parts. For those who like crime thrillers, it's a treat; chess fans will be interested because chess plays Stephen Carter, is a unique talent: a prize-winning writer of both fiction and non-fiction, he is also a law professor at Yale University. The Emperor of Ocean Park derives its title from the sobriquet given by a magazine to Judge Oliver Garland, a key but short-lived character. This is an astounding novel that feels like non-fiction in many ways, a book filled with ideas and lots of moving parts. For those who like crime thrillers, it's a treat; chess fans will be interested because chess plays a role in the plot, but those immune to the game will not be put off; it is filled with insights into the functional dysfunction of families; it has cutting insights into university politics for those familiar with that landscape; it exposes with wry wit insights into human and institutional foibles; it has insights into race relations in America, with references to "those of the paler nation" and "those of the darker nation" as well as to the Black and White pieces on a chessboard. To boot, it is just outstanding writing. We open the book and our reader-eyes zoom in on the attractive vacation home of Oliver and Claire Garland in the Ocean Park section of Oak Bluff. Oliver is a former Federal judge once nominated for the Supreme Court during the Reagan administration but vigorously trashed by the liberal members of the Senate Judiciary Committee after he became a victim of media attention for his association with an unsavory character named Jack Ziegler. The SCOTUS hearings turned into a bloodbath, the Judge was forced to withdraw his nomination, and became himself the target of several federal investigations. His reputation destroyed, he resigned from his judgeship and became a conservative media commentator on legal issues, a chess problemist devoting many hours to constructing chess problems, and a solitary drinker. At the outset we hear a litany by the protagonist—the youngest son, forties-ish Talcott ("Tal" or "Misha") Garland. Tal is the second husband of attorney Kimberly ("Kimmer") Garland. Tal is a law professor at Elm Harbor University (read: Yale) and, like his father, devoted to chess. Kimmer is a corporate attorney currently being vetted for a she'd-kill-for position vacancy the Federal Court of Appeals. Her most obvious opponent is another law professor at Elm Harbor—a man the school would like to move on to better pastures, like a position on the Court of Appeals. Tal suspects Kimmer of infidelity with her boss, just as she had been unfaithful to her first husband when she was bedding Tal. Tensions in and around the Garland families are very high. In just a few crisp paragraphs we learn that the Garland family has walked a rough road. Mother Claire died years earlier—she is described as "busily dying" while watching Nantucket Sound from her bedroom window with her husband always on the road. The Judge has just had a fatal heart attack in his home office, a death that is described by sister Mariah as "murder." Twenty years earlier sister Abigail ("Abby") died at the hands of a never-found hit-and-run driver when she was a college senior. The only survivors are Tal, his older brother Addison (a charming dilettante), and his older sister, Mariah. Tal gets along well with Addison but has had a remote relationship with the brilliant but opinionated and judgmental Mariah ever since he "went over to the other side." In recognition of his father's devotion to chess, Talcott names the book's sections after chess terms. The first part is Nowotny Interference, a term describing the case when two Black pieces obstruct each other. The first family interaction we see is at the gathering of friends and family after the Judge's death. Standing off in the distance is "Uncle" Jack Ziegler, the unsavory friend of the SCOTUS debacle. whose relationship with The Judge was at the heart of the SCOTUS debacle. Mariah believes that was involved in The Judge's murder. His presence will reactivate the latent angers raised in the SCOTUS rejection. After his father's burial, Jack approaches Tal demanding to know about "the arrangements." Tal has no idea what he's talking about—financial arrangements, like the will? No! Funeral arrangements? Clearly not! Jack leaves Tal with some not-very-veiled threats and we with the readers eyes realize that the Judge's life was murkier that thought. We also will come to see a fine example of the problem of every child: the adoration and hostility children feel for parents is often at conflict with the desire to know more about their parents—parents are wizards of Oz and the less you know, the more righteous they seem. When two FBI agents arrive to interview Tal about Uncle Jack's presence at the funeral, we know something is going on, and that it's not good; those agents, who will turn out to be fake, are particularly interested in anyone Tal knows named Angela and who might be Angela's boyfriend. Tal knows nothing about them Then something really disturbing happens: Father Freeman Bishop, who had officiated at Oliver's funeral, is found dead—tortured and murdered. Wowza! Is this the Uncle Jack connection? Is sister Mariah right? And, remembering how Oliver's position on SCOTUS was scorched by his association with Uncle Jack, will this affect Kimmer's possible nomination? It will turn out that Father Bishop is a drug addict and that his girlfriend was named Angel. Is he "the" Angela's boyfriend, or just none of Angela's boyfriends? Is it the same Angela that the fake FBI agents asked about? If he is "the" Angela's boyfriend, was his death designed to keep the information he has hidden? If so, why? Or was it the result of having extracted the information and getting rid of the carrier? What is that crucial information? The questions are building up. The news doesn't improve: Tal's university position, though protected by tenure, is threatened because of fuzzy questions about his "fitness"—someone is undermining him in the Ivory Tower. Is this related to Kimmer's candidacy as a judge—an attempt to undermine her credibility? Or is it just an internal enemy? Tal is attacked by two assailants in the Elm Harbor campus; they are apparently after a book he is carrying. The campus police arrive after the assailants disappear, but somehow the story gets twisted to say that Tal was almost arrested—that story is assed to the reasons why Tal is unfit. Tal is aware of being followed. The list goes on. Tal has also inherited the Oak Bluff house and when he returns to Oak Bluff to prep for the next season he finds the house trashed and an inscrutable note in his father's handwriting prominently placed so it will be seen. The note, to "my son," reads in part: . . . So I know this much: Angela's boyfriend, despite his deteriorating condition, is in possession of that which I want you to know. You are in no danger, neither you nor your family, but you have little time. You are unlikely to be the only one who is searching for the arrangements that Angela's boyfriend alone can reveal. And you may not be the only one who knows who Angela's boyfriend is . . . Excelsior, my son! It begins!Soon after this discovery, one of the fake FBI agents is found dead from drowning off of Menemsha, a village north of Oak Bluff, where he had been spying on Tal's family. Sister Mariah, obsessed with conspiracy theories, finds an illegal and recently-fired gun in one of the Judge's desk drawers. The Garland family is a lightning rod for trouble! Tal has no idea who is Angela or her boyfriend. But as a chess player like his father, he has some guesses about "Excelsior." The "Double Excelsior" is a chess question about what rules of the game would lead to Black winning; the standard answer is that there are no such rules so long as White is first to move. Somehow, this arcane issue is tied in to the Judge's life and death, and to the subsequent events. The Judge's note is telling the reader what game is being played. But, of course, we aren't sure if it is directed at Tal or at Addison, the other son. Each page is an exercise in Whack-a-Mole: for every piece of information that goes into Tal's outbox, another question is added to the inbox. That keeps the story alive, and fascinating. Talcott will find the answers after many false starts and with some assistance from one of the two groups that wants the information on "the arrangements." One of those groups is Jack Ziegler's Black Hats; the second group is the Gray Hats, not quite a s pure as White Hats, but closer than Ziegler. Whoever gets the information in "the arrangements" first will have something very powerful. But for what? There isn't anything not to like in this novel. At the end you feel a bit exhausted but very satisfied. Five stars!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nichole

    This book was fantastic, and I'm sorry it took me so long to get to it. Although sixteen years later is better than never, I wish that I had grabbed this book when everyone else (in the world) did - when it was published. I remember 2002. This book stayed on the bestseller lists for several weeks. Stephen Carter's name was on everyone's lips - except mine. Why the disinterest? What took me so long? The usual reason: I had my nose stuck in an old, dusty, out-of-print novel (the kind I prefer), so This book was fantastic, and I'm sorry it took me so long to get to it. Although sixteen years later is better than never, I wish that I had grabbed this book when everyone else (in the world) did - when it was published. I remember 2002. This book stayed on the bestseller lists for several weeks. Stephen Carter's name was on everyone's lips - except mine. Why the disinterest? What took me so long? The usual reason: I had my nose stuck in an old, dusty, out-of-print novel (the kind I prefer), so I missed all the excitement. I never follow trends. Oh well, better late than never. I don't need to break this book down. Everyone knows what it's about. I only want to mention this book's perfect multiracial group of wealthy and self-absorbed characters (intelligent, but cuckholded professor Tal, his cheating-harpy lawyer wife Kimmer, mysterious and scary Jack Ziegler, always-pregnant socialite Mariah, gossipy dean Dear Dana, used-up druggie Cousin Sally - and the memory of the newly-dead Judge Oliver Garland), the icy setting (New England - Martha's Vineyard, Washington D. C., a fictional Ivy League college), a great theme (the murder thriller solved as a chess problem), and the clever talks (chess move talks, dinner party talks about God and faith, and Ivy League talks about the legal system). The Emperor was my kind of thriller (whenever I read thrillers): literary, moody, cerebral (chess rules, Buber, Tort law!), and long (672 pages); it was the kind of suspense I could sink my teeth into for long winter days... This book was pure heaven. Better late than never.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

    Carter is a good writer in the sense that he puts words and sentences together in a way that is mostly enjoyable to read (although he tends to over-use certain pat phrases -- his use of "darker nation" and "paler nation" was ok once or twice but tiresome after a while.) But at the end of the day, the plot, although complex and fairly engaging while you are reading it, has MAJOR holes in it. The most glaring hole is that if you actually ponder the motive of the person who turns out to have done i Carter is a good writer in the sense that he puts words and sentences together in a way that is mostly enjoyable to read (although he tends to over-use certain pat phrases -- his use of "darker nation" and "paler nation" was ok once or twice but tiresome after a while.) But at the end of the day, the plot, although complex and fairly engaging while you are reading it, has MAJOR holes in it. The most glaring hole is that if you actually ponder the motive of the person who turns out to have done it, you'll realize it's extremely thin.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gabriella

    I want y'all to know that I really tried with this one, for a long while! This year was supposed to be the year I really moved into several mysteries and thrillers, and so I was excited to try this book that'd been personally suggested to me through my library's recommendation program. It seemed like a group of people I'd be interested in mocking--I mean reading--about, and so I was excited to dive in. BUT: The wry, detached narrative style just does not work for me. I felt this way in The Long F I want y'all to know that I really tried with this one, for a long while! This year was supposed to be the year I really moved into several mysteries and thrillers, and so I was excited to try this book that'd been personally suggested to me through my library's recommendation program. It seemed like a group of people I'd be interested in mocking--I mean reading--about, and so I was excited to dive in. BUT: The wry, detached narrative style just does not work for me. I felt this way in The Long Fall, but was able to push through it. When I realized I was over 200 pages into this book and still had to listen to much more of Talcott's high-brow misery, I just couldn't do it!

  26. 5 out of 5

    LATOYA JOVENA

    I enjoyed this book but it has some serious flaws. It took way too long for me to feel any suspense and I don't like the protagonist. He's a shell of man in the shadow of every single person around him. His dead dad. His older brother. His unfaithful wife. Also there are way too many characters who, in my opinion, are all alike. Wealthy. Highly educated lawyers. There are a few good laughs though. I enjoyed this book but it has some serious flaws. It took way too long for me to feel any suspense and I don't like the protagonist. He's a shell of man in the shadow of every single person around him. His dead dad. His older brother. His unfaithful wife. Also there are way too many characters who, in my opinion, are all alike. Wealthy. Highly educated lawyers. There are a few good laughs though.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Di Richardson

    I read a review calling this book intricate, and I think that’s a very good word to describe it. It starts with the death of Oliver Garland who is a prominent African-American judge, and was once a nominee for the Supreme Court. That nomination was tanked, and the judge publicly humiliated, because of a relationship he had with a prominent crime figure. After the judges death, his son Talcott starts receiving cryptic messages about some big secret that the judge had, and Tal has to unravel those I read a review calling this book intricate, and I think that’s a very good word to describe it. It starts with the death of Oliver Garland who is a prominent African-American judge, and was once a nominee for the Supreme Court. That nomination was tanked, and the judge publicly humiliated, because of a relationship he had with a prominent crime figure. After the judges death, his son Talcott starts receiving cryptic messages about some big secret that the judge had, and Tal has to unravel those secrets before someone else does. There’s also a lot of family drama, and political intrigue.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ieisha

    Do. Not. Read. This.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shayla

    OK, so I finally finished the book and I really liked it! In addition to the use of the terms "darker nation" and "paler nation", which I thought was a simple but wonderful way to distinguish the races (I tire of having to say black and white), the writing was really quite good. This was not a short novel, so Carter had enough pages to develop the characters and I'm glad that he did. I came to understand, though not always like, the whole Garland clan and their actions, even little Bentley. Thos OK, so I finally finished the book and I really liked it! In addition to the use of the terms "darker nation" and "paler nation", which I thought was a simple but wonderful way to distinguish the races (I tire of having to say black and white), the writing was really quite good. This was not a short novel, so Carter had enough pages to develop the characters and I'm glad that he did. I came to understand, though not always like, the whole Garland clan and their actions, even little Bentley. Those characters who were hiding in the shadows retained their mystery and danger. As the reader, I knew what Misha knew and I learned what he learned. I also thought his description of climate of a private New England university was accurate, as well as his portrayal of a certain segment of the black middle class. Overall, a well-written, engaging thriller/mystery, I can't wait to read New England White, I've requested it from the library, but I'm #63 out of #64, so I might have to go buy it!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Deirdre

    This was entertaining. Talcott defintely became a character for whom one can sympathize, from his failing marriage with Kimmer, to his heart rending tenderness toward his son, to his anguish over the mysterious and dangerous legacy his father has haunted him. I found the chess descriptions and the circle of law a bit dry. I do have a rudimentary knowledge of chess - but the description of "double excelsior" left me scratching my head. And being a former litigation attorney and UGH! law student, This was entertaining. Talcott defintely became a character for whom one can sympathize, from his failing marriage with Kimmer, to his heart rending tenderness toward his son, to his anguish over the mysterious and dangerous legacy his father has haunted him. I found the chess descriptions and the circle of law a bit dry. I do have a rudimentary knowledge of chess - but the description of "double excelsior" left me scratching my head. And being a former litigation attorney and UGH! law student, I wasn't particularly interested in becoming entrenched again in its interworkings. It was an entertaining read, but not a likely re-read.

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