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The Darlings

Pamela Dorman: Viking. Feb. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780670023271. $26.95. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. POP FICTION
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Son-in-law of billionaire financier Carter Darling and much accustomed to the good life à la New York, pink-slipped attorney Paul Ross gratefully accepts the offer to head the legal team at Carter's hedge fund. Then a regulatory investigation materializes, leading to scandal, and Paul must choose between saving himself or standing by the family and its business. A former Goldman, Sachs analyst whose father was CEO of Alger Management until 9/11, Alger seems to write with a certain sharp and knowing elegance. Lots of good noise about this one.
Alger's debut tracks a single week in the fortunes, or, rather, misfortunes, of the Darlings, a pedigreed Manhattan family whose lavish lifestyle depends on the positive performance of Delphic, their financial investment firm. All goes awry when Morty Reis, a family friend and Delphic's most successful fund manager, tosses himself off the Tappan Zee Bridge. Unfortunately for son-in-law Paul Ross, this terrible event happens around the time of his signing on as the firm's legal counsel and the receipt of pointed phone calls from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). He begins to suspect that Morty had engaged in fraudulent schemes that will bring down the family. Will Paul be pulled into the moral quagmire of a family cover-up, extricate himself by cooperating with the SEC and thereby lose his lovely wife, or be hung out to dry by the Darlings as the scapegoat? Throughout the novel, Alger introduces us to flawed but sympathetically drawn characters and depicts socialite parties, luscious dinners, exquisite clothes, and holidays in the Hamptons.
VERDICT Alger, a former Goldman Sachs analyst and attorney, has written a financial thriller with a tone that fits somewhere between the novels of Dominick Dunne (though not as flippant) and Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities (though not as serious). [See Prepub Alert, 8/26/11.]—Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Lib., Washington, DC

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