The Emperor of Ocean Park

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( 5,256 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780375431654: The Emperor of Ocean Park

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 gone terribly wrong.

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Review:

A complex, smart mystery filled with intrigue, drama, and more than a little danger awaits in Stephen L. Carter's engaging debut novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park. After the funeral of his powerful father (a federal judge whose nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court became a public scandal), Talcott Garland, an African American law professor at an Ivy League university, is left to unravel the meaning of a cryptic note and carry out "the arrangements" his father left behind. Armed with fortitude and familial devotion--though paranoid of his wife's fidelity--Talcott soon finds himself in an investigation that entangles him with a number of questionable Washington, D.C., denizens, including attorneys and government officials, law professors, the FBI, shady underworld figures, chess masters, and friends and family. All the while Talcott tries not to hurt his attorney wife's chance for a judicial nomination--and their fragile marriage--but the closer he comes to unraveling his father's dark secrets, the more dangerous things become.

Clocking in at over 650 pages, the novel could easily have been streamlined; many of Talcott's thoughts are unnecessarily repeated. But Carter's storytelling skills are adept: tension builds, surprises are genuine, clues are not handed out freely. The prose, while somewhat meandering, can be crisp and insightful, as demonstrated in Carter's description of the misguided paths of young attorneys who sacrifice

all on the altar of career... at last arriving... at their cherished career goals, partnerships, professorships, judgeships, whatever kind of ships they dream of sailing, and then looking around at the angry, empty waters and realizing that they have arrived with nothing, absolutely nothing, and wondering what to do with the rest of their wretched lives.
--Michael Ferch

From the Back Cover:

“Rich, rewarding and compelling. . . . Transports readers into a different world and creates characters that resonate long after you’ve finished it.” --USA Today

“Full of energy . . . high-spirited and fleet of foot. . . .This novel . . . lives on the page. . . . It’s not much of an exaggeration to think that in Stephen Carter the black upper class has found its Dreiser” -- The New York Times Book Review

“A remarkable debut novel...A rare look into the world of wealthy and established black families....One is at a loss to name another book...that has sought to convey, with such clarity, such depth of understanding or such cultural analysis, the uniqueness of this experience.” --Los Angeles Times

“A thrilling entertainment.” --Newsday

“Rich, rewarding and compelling. . . . Transports readers into a different world and creates characters that resonate long after you’ve finished it.” –USA Today

“A delightful, sprawling, gracefully written, imaginative work, with sharply delineated characters who dwell in a fully realized narrative world.” –New York Review of Books

“A dense, dark legal thriller. . . . Talcott’s clear-eyed observations of his peers, both white and black, give Emperor a social conscience that most books of its ilk lack.” –Time

“Closely observed, often affecting. . . . Written with easy authority . . . nimble . . . satiric.... persuasive.” –The New York Times

“A thriller as heady as it is hefty. . . . Using . . . wry descriptions of place, power and privilege, Carter keeps attitude spinning. . . . With Emperor, Carter fills the gap between intrigue and intelligence.” –People

“Carter writes powerfully about such virtues as love, faith and forgiveness. . . . and offers a strong commentary on race as seen through the relationships between his characters.” –Philadelphia Inquirer

“An admirable debut . . . Mr. Carter’s storytelling skills are impressive.” –Wall Street Journal

The Emperor of Ocean Park is an outstanding work of fiction. . . . Masterfully developed. . . . A gripping story.” –Newark Sunday Star-Ledger

“[Carter] has shed an unblinking eye on an area of race and culture conspicuously absent in popular fiction.” –Miami Herald

“A light thriller for the beach; a wicked satire of academic politics; a stinging exposé of the judicial confirmation process; a trenchant analysis of racial progress in America.” –The Christian Science Monitor

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Carter, Stephen L.
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