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.
New York Times - Michiko Katutani
....a contrived, implausible and needlessly baroque melodrama, which reads as if it were written for serial publication, with nearly every chapter ending on a hokey cliffhanger.
In a word, a humdinger.
Library Journal - Jennifer Baker
Those who enjoy a leisurely pace to their suspense and subscribe to Carter's philosophy of conservatism will enjoy it. The rest will stick with Grisham, Martini, and Margolin.
Book Magazine - Chris Barsanti
The book's subject, an often-ignored segment of American society, is a welcome departure. However, the author is prone to lectures on race relations and the state of academe, and the story suffers from his tin ear for dialogue and portentous tone.
This sleek, immensely readable first novel is custom-designed for the kind of commercial success enjoyed by John Grisham's The Firm 11 years ago. . . . A melodrama with brains and heart to match its killer plot. . . . Irresistible.
Fascinating. . . . [A] suspenseful tale of ambition, revenge, and the power of familial obligations. . . . An elegantly nuanced novel, with finely drawn characters, a challenging plot, and perfect pacing
Starred Review. This first-rate legal thriller, which touches electrically on our sexual, racial and religious anxieties, will be the talk of the political in-crowd this summer.
A novel of great originality and insight a saga of an African-American family of affluence and privilege forced to reckon with their misadventures and crimes. But Carter's novel also explores, perhaps for the first time in recent memory, a less familiar vision of the black experience in America one of pride and optimism, and possibility. I've never read a book quite like it, and I enjoyed it very much indeed.
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