Summary and book reviews of The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen Carter

The Emperor of Ocean Park

by Stephen L. Carter

The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter X
The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2002, 672 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2003, 672 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Intricate, superbly written, often scathingly funny - a brilliantly crafted tapestry of ambition, family secrets, murder, integrity tested, and justice 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 gone terribly wrong.

PROLOGUE
THE VINEYARD HOUSE

When my father finally died, he left the Redskins tickets to my brother, the house on Shepard Street to my sister, and the house on the Vineyard to me. The football tickets, of course, were the most valuable item in the estate, but then Addison was always the biggest favorite and the biggest fan, the only one of the children who came close to sharing my father's obsession, as well as the only one of us actually on speaking terms with my father the last time he drew his will. Addison is a gem, if you don't mind the religious nonsense, but Mariah and I have not been close in the years since I joined the enemy, as she puts it, which is why my father bequeathed us houses four hundred miles apart.

I was glad to have the Vineyard house, a tidy little Victorian on Ocean Park in the town of Oak Bluffs, with lots of frilly carpenter's Gothic along the sagging porch and a lovely morning view of the white band shell set amidst a vast sea of smooth ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Book

When the brilliant and controversial black judge, Oliver Garland, is found dead in his study, not everyone believes it was a heart attack. Mystery, secrecy, and misfortune seemed to surround the judge during his life–his daughter was killed in a hit-and-run car accident and his nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected in a scandalous public hearing–and now that's he's dead the mysteries only deepen. He has left his son Talcott, professor of law at a prestigious New England university, a set of cryptic instructions regarding his "arrangements." Talcott's sister Mariah is certain that their father was murdered and produces one conspiracy theory after another to prove it; his wife, the beautiful, ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

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.

Fortune
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.

Kirkus Reviews
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.

Booklist
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

Publishers Weekly
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.

Author Blurb Gay Talese
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.

Reader Reviews

Bv

One of the best books I have been reading for while so far! Very detailed but it doesn't start to bore you at all.
I recommend this book to everyone who wants to enjoy some very exciting evenings.

Billy Bass

Ignore the NY Times review and read this book. True, there's a cliff hanger at the end of every chapter and that is what makes it so much fun to read. The story is complelling, the mystery is suspenseful.The author puts you inside the head of the ...   Read More

elp

A very good read--and a great mystery novel. Yes, it takes a bit longer to read than most, but it's definitely worth the time and effort. The motif of chess is well done and thoroughly explained so that even a "chess dummy" like me could ...   Read More

Steve Suk

Emperor of Ocean Park was a book that I had a very hard time putting down. Stephen Carter writes with such an exactness that I found myself reading each word, sentence and paragraph as if it were a 7 course meal; wanting to digest and ruminate on ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Stephen L Carter

If you liked The Emperor of Ocean Park, try these:

  • In The Shadow of The Law jacket

    In The Shadow of The Law

    by Kermit Roosevelt

    Published 2006

    About this book

    In this complex, ambitious, and gripping first novel, Kermit Roosevelt vividly illustrates the subtle and stark effects of the law on the lives of a group of lawyers, and also on communities and private citizens.

  • The Accusers jacket

    The Accusers

    by Lindsey Davis

    Published 2004

    About this book

    More books by this author

    Marcus Didius Falco ('Sam Spade in a ratty toga') should have smelled a rat when employed to investigate the death of a rich Roman senator.  Now Falco stands before judge and jury to argue the case but the wheels of justice grind exceedingly fine and the machinations of the powerful are dangerous.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Smiling Man
    The Smiling Man
    by Joseph Knox
    Joseph Knox's latest turns on a simple premise: an unidentified and unidentifiable murdered man is ...
  • Book Jacket: The Heavens
    The Heavens
    by Sandra Newman
    I've been a big fan of Sandra Newman's writing ever since reading her 2014 novel The Country of Ice ...
  • Book Jacket: Sugar Run
    Sugar Run
    by Mesha Maren
    Mesha Maren's debut novel is a plunge into the depths of the dark Southern gothic with pulsing and ...
  • Book Jacket: Code Name Lise
    Code Name Lise
    by Larry Loftis
    Odette Sansom (1912 – 1995), a Frenchwoman married to a British man and living in the English ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    American Princess
    by Stephanie Marie Thornton

    Rated 4.9 stars by BookBrowse members - one of the highest scores of all time!
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    A People's History of Heaven
    by Mathangi Subramanian

    A story of love and friendship, and fighting for the places we love.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Girls Burn Brighter
by Shobha Rao

An extraordinary and heart-rending tale of two girls with all the odds against them.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win The Summer Country

Win up to 12 copies to share with friends or your book club!

A sweeping epic of lost love, lies, jealousy, and rebellion set in colonial Barbados.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D T T! Full S A!

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.