DeMille's follow-up to his bestselling The Gold Coast features protagonist John Sutter falling back into old habits and acquaintances as he comes home to Long Island. Narrator Christian Rummel gives an awkward reading, struggling to capture the character of Sutter through a voice that sounds manufactured and often uneasy. Rummel fares slightly better with supporting characters such as Sutter's ex-wife, though the first-person narrative from Sutter's perspective ensures that most of the novel is read with that same nervous tone. Rummel never finds his groove, eternally searching for the proper narrative tone that will captivate the audience. A Grand Central hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 18). (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Gate House (John Sutter Series #2)by Nelson DeMille, Christian Rummel
#1 New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille delivers the long-awaited follow-up to his classic novel The Gold Coast.
When John Sutter's aristocratic wife killed her mafia don lover, John left America and set out in his sailboat on a three-year journey around the world, eventually settling in London. Now, ten years later, he has/em>/em>
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#1 New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille delivers the long-awaited follow-up to his classic novel The Gold Coast.
When John Sutter's aristocratic wife killed her mafia don lover, John left America and set out in his sailboat on a three-year journey around the world, eventually settling in London. Now, ten years later, he has come home to the Gold Coast, that stretch of land on the North Shore of Long Island that once held the greatest concentration of wealth and power in America, to attend the imminent funeral of an old family servant. Taking up temporary residence in the gatehouse of Stanhope Hall, John finds himself living only a quarter of a mile from Susan who has also returned to Long Island. But Susan isn't the only person from John's past who has reemerged: Though Frank Bellarosa, infamous Mafia don and Susan's ex-lover, is long dead, his son, Anthony, is alive and well, and intent on two missions: Drawing John back into the violent world of the Bellarosa family, and exacting revenge on his father's murderer--Susan Sutter. At the same time, John and Susan's mutual attraction resurfaces and old passions begin to reignite, and John finds himself pulled deeper into a familiar web of seduction and betrayal. In THE GATE HOUSE, acclaimed author Nelson Demille brings us back to that fabled spot on the North Shore -- a place where past, present, and future collides with often unexpected results.
In this long-awaited but ponderous sequel to The Gold Coast (1990), it is ten years later, and John Sutter has returned for the funeral of a woman who isn't dead yet. He's also looking to restart his life and possibly hook up with his ex-wife, Susan, who'd had an affair with a local Mafia don she later killed. Confounding the problem is the don's son, who has taken over the family business and wants vengeance against both John and Susan. While there are interesting characters, and Sutter's first-person observations are clever, it takes forever for the action to get going. Even an exciting climax doesn't help. DeMille has developed a reputation for fast-paced action thrillers, and this is neither. His name will guarantee a level of success, and those patrons who enjoyed reading about the lives of the rich and decadent in The Gold Coast will enjoy this sequel. The rest will hope DeMille's next effort is more compelling. For larger collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/08.]-Robert Conroy, Warren, MI
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The Gate Houseby
By Nelson DeMille
Grand Central Publishing
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Chapter One A week had passed since my return from London, and I was sitting at the table in the dining room of the small gatehouse of Stanhope Hall, my ex-wife's former estate, wading through old files, family photos, and letters that I'd stored here for the last decade.
After my divorce from Susan, I'd fulfilled an old dream by taking my sailboat, a forty-six-foot Morgan ketch named the Paumanok II, on a sail around the world, which lasted three years. Paumanok, incidentally, is the indigenous Indian word for Long Island, and my illustrious ancestor, Walt Whitman, a native Long Islander, sometimes used this word in his poetry-and if Uncle Walt had owned a forty-six-foot yacht, I'm sure he'd have christened it the Paumanok, not "I Hear America Singing," which is too long to put on the stern, or Leaves of Grass, which doesn't sound seaworthy.
Anyway, my last port of call was Bournemouth, England, from which my other distant ancestors, the Sutters, had set sail for America three centuries before.
With winter coming on, and sea fatigue in my bones, a dwindling bank account, and my wanderlust satisfied, I sold the boat for about half what it was worth and moved up to London to look for a job, eventually signing on with a British law firm that needed an American tax lawyer, which is what I was in New York before I became captain of the Paumanok II.
I spread out some photos of Susan on the table and looked at them under the light of the chandelier. Susan was, and probably still is, a beautiful woman with long red hair, arresting green eyes, pouty lips, and the perfect body of a lifelong equestrian.
I picked up a photo that showed Susan on my first sailboat, the original Paumanok, a thirty-six-foot Morgan, which I loved, but which I'd scuttled in Oyster Bay Harbor rather than let the government seize it for back taxes. This photo was taken, I think, in the summer of 1990 somewhere on the Long Island Sound. The photograph showed a bright summer day, and Susan was standing on the aft deck, stark naked, with one hand covering her burning bush, and the other covering one breast. Her face shows an expression of mock surprise and embarrassment.
The occasion was one of Susan's acted-out sexual fantasies, and I think I was supposed to have climbed aboard from a kayak, and I'd discovered her alone and naked and made her my sex slave.
The woman had not only a great body, but also a great imagination and a wonderful libido to go with it. As for the sexual playacting, its purpose, of course, was to keep the marital fires burning, and it worked well for almost two decades because all our infidelities were with each other. At least that was the understanding, until a new actor, don Frank Bellarosa, moved in next door.
I picked up a bottle of old cognac that I'd found in the sideboard and topped off my coffee cup.
The reason I've returned to America has to do with the former residents of this gatehouse, George and Ethel Allard, who had been old Stanhope family retainers. George, a good man, had died a decade ago, and his wife, Ethel, who is not so nice, is in hospice care and about to join her husband, unless George has already had a word with St. Peter, the ultimate gatekeeper. "Wasn't I promised eternal rest and peace? Can't she go someplace else? She always liked hot weather." In any case, I am the attorney for Ethel's estate and so I needed to take care of that and attend her funeral.
The other reason I've returned is that this gatehouse is my legal U.S. address, but unfortunately, this house is about to pass into the hands of Amir Nasim, an Iranian gentleman who now owns the main house, Stanhope Hall, and much of the original acreage, including this gatehouse. As of now, however, Ethel Allard has what is called a life estate in the gatehouse, meaning she has a rent-free tenancy until she dies. This rent-free house was given to her by Susan's grandfather, Augustus Stanhope (because Ethel was screwing Augustus way back when), and Ethel has been kind enough to allow me to store my things here and share her digs whenever I'm in New York. Ethel hates me, but that's another story. In any case, Ethel's tenancy in this house and on this planet is about to end, and thus I had returned from London not only to say goodbye to Ethel, but also to find a new home for my possessions, and find another legal U.S. address, which seems to be a requirement for citizenship and creditors.
This is the first time I'd been to New York since last September, coming in from London as soon as the airplanes were flying again. I'd stayed for three days at the Yale Club, where I'd maintained my membership for my infrequent New York business trips, and I was shocked at how quiet, empty, and somber the great city had become.
I'd made no phone calls and saw no one. I would have seen my daughter, Carolyn, but she had fled her apartment in Brooklyn right after 9/11 to stay with her mother in Hilton Head, South Carolina. My son, Edward, lives in Los Angeles. So for three days, I walked the quiet streets of the city, watching the smoke rising from what came to be known as Ground Zero.
Heartsick and drained, I got on a plane and returned to London, feeling that I'd done the right thing, the way people do who come home for a death in the family.
Over the next few months, I learned that I knew eleven people who'd died in the Twin Towers; mostly former neighbors and business associates, but also a close friend who left a wife and three young children.
And now, nine months after 9/11, I was back again. Things seemed to have returned to normal, but not really.
I sipped my coffee and cognac and looked around at the piles of paper. There was a lot to go through, and I hoped that Ethel would hold on a while longer, and that Mr. Nasim wasn't planning on getting his encumbered gatehouse into his possession the minute Ethel's life tenancy expired. I needed to speak to Mr. Nasim about that; speaking to Ethel about hanging on until I tidied up my papers might seem insensitive and selfish.
Because the night was cool, and because I didn't have a paper shredder, I had a fire going in the dining room fireplace. Now and then, I'd feed the fire with some letter or photo that I wouldn't want my children to see if I suddenly croaked.
In that category were these photos of their mother whose nakedness revealed a lot more about her head than about her body. Susan was, and I'm sure still is, a bit nutty. But to be honest, I didn't mind that at all, and that wasn't the source of our marital problems. Our problem, obviously, was Susan's affair with the Mafia don next door. And then to complicate things further, she shot and killed him. Three shots. One in the groin. Ouch.
I gathered the photos and turned in my chair toward the fireplace. We all have trouble parting with things like this, but I can tell you, as a lawyer and as a man, no good can come of saving anything you wouldn't want your family or your enemies to see. Or your next significant other, for that matter.
I stared into the fire and watched the flames dancing against the soot-blackened brick, but I held on to the photos.
So, she shot her lover, Frank "the Bishop" Bellarosa, capo di tutti capi, boss of all bosses, and got away with it-legally, at least-due to some circumstances that the Justice Department found mitigating and extenuating.
Fact is, the Justice Department took a dive on the case because they'd made the mistake of allowing Mrs. Sutter unobstructed access to don Bellarosa, who was under house arrest in his villa down the road, and who was also singing his black heart out to them, and thus needed to be kept happy with another man's wife.
I'm still a little pissed off at the whole thing, as you might guess, but basically I'm over it.
Meanwhile, I needed to decide if this trip was a death vigil, or perhaps something more permanent. I had kept up with my CLE-continuing legal education-and I was still a member of the New York State Bar, so I hadn't burned all my bridges, and theoretically I was employable here. In my last life, I had been a partner in my father's old firm of Perkins, Perkins, Sutter and Reynolds, still located at 23 Wall Street, a historic building that was once bombed by Anarchists at the turn of the last century, which seems almost quaint in light of 9/11.
For the last seven years in London, I'd worked for the aforementioned British law firm, and I was their American tax guy who explained that screwing the Internal Revenue Service was an American tradition. This was payback for me because the IRS had screwed up my life, while my wife was screwing the Mafia don. These two seemingly disparate problems were actually related, as I had found out the hard way.
I guess I'd hit a patch of rough road back then, a little adversity in an otherwise charmed and privileged life. But adversity builds character, and to be honest, it wasn't all Susan's fault, or Frank Bellarosa's fault, or the fault of the IRS, or my stuffed-shirt law partners; it was partly my own fault because I, too, was involved with Frank Bellarosa. A little legal work. Like representing him on a murder charge. Not the kind of thing I normally did as a Wall Street lawyer, and certainly not the kind of case that Perkins, Perkins, Sutter and Reynolds would approve of. Therefore, I'd handled this case out of my Locust Valley, Long Island, office, but that wasn't much cover when the newspapers got hold of it.
Thinking back on this, I couldn't help but know I was committing professional and social suicide when I took a Mafia don as a client. But it was a challenge, and I was bored, and Susan, who approved of and encouraged my association with Frank Bellarosa, said I needed a challenge. I guess Susan was bored, too, and as I found out, she had her own agenda regarding Frank Bellarosa.
And speaking of Susan, I had discovered through my son, Edward, that, quote, "Mom has bought our house back."
Bad grammar aside-I sent this kid to great schools-what Edward meant was that Susan had reacquired the large guest cottage on the Stanhope estate. This so-called cottage-it has six bedrooms-had been our marital residence for nearly twenty years, and is located about a quarter mile up the main drive of the estate. In other words, Susan and I were now neighbors.
The guest cottage and ten acres of property had been carved out of the two hundred sixty acres of the Stanhope estate by Susan's father, William, who's an insufferable prick, and deeded to Susan as a wedding gift. Since I was the groom, I always wondered why my name wasn't on the deed. But you need to understand old money to answer that. You also need to understand pricks like William. Not to mention his ditsy wife, Susan's mother, Charlotte. These two characters are unfortunately still alive and well, living and golfing in Hilton Head, South Carolina, where Susan had been living since the unfortunate gun mishap that took her lover's life ten years ago.
Before Susan left for South Carolina, she'd sold the guest cottage to a yuppie corporate transfer couple from someplace west of the Hudson. You know your marriage is in trouble when your wife sells the house and moves to another state. In truth, however, it was I who ended the marriage. Susan wanted us to stay together, making the obvious point that her lover was dead, and thus we needn't worry about bumping into him at a party. In fact, she claimed that was why she'd killed him; so we could be together.
That wasn't quite it, but it sounded nice. In retrospect, we probably could have stayed together, but I was too angry at being cuckolded, and my male ego had taken a major hit. I mean, not only did our friends, family, and children know that Susan was fucking a Mafia don, but the whole damned country knew when it hit the tabloids: "Dead Don Diddled Lawyer's Heiress Wife." Or something like that.
It may have worked out for us if, as Susan had suggested, I'd killed her lover myself. But I wouldn't have gotten off as easily as she had. Even if I'd somehow beaten the murder rap-crime of passion-I'd have some explaining to do to don Bellarosa's friends and family.
So she sold the house, leaving me homeless, except, of course, for the Yale Club in Manhattan, where I am always welcome. But Susan, in a rare display of thoughtfulness, suggested to me that Ethel Allard, recently widowed, could use some company in the gatehouse. That actually wasn't a bad idea, and since Ethel could also use a few bucks in rent, and a handyman to replace her recently deceased husband, I'd moved into the extra bedroom and stored my belongings in the basement, where they'd sat for this past decade.
By spring of the following year, I'd made a financial settlement with my partners and used the money to buy the forty-six-foot Morgan, which I christened Paumanok II. By that time, my membership in the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club had been terminated by mutual consent, so I sailed from the public marina where I'd bought the boat and began my three-year odyssey at sea.
Odysseus was trying to get home; I was trying to get away from home. Odysseus wanted to see his wife; maybe I did, too, but it didn't happen. I'd told Susan I would put in at Hilton Head, and I almost did, but within sight of land, I headed back to sea with just a glance over my shoulder. Clean break. No regrets.
I threw the nude photos of Susan on the table, instead of in the fireplace. Maybe she wanted them.
I poured more cognac into the dregs of the coffee and took a swallow.
I looked up at a large, ornately framed, hand-colored photo portrait of Ethel and George Allard, which hung over the mantel.
It was a wedding picture, taken during World War II, and George is dressed in his Navy whites, and Ethel is wearing a white wedding dress of the period. Ethel was quite a looker in her day, and I could see how Susan's grandfather, Augustus, who was then lord of Stanhope Hall, could cross the class line and fiddle with one of his female servants. It was inexcusable, of course, on every level, especially since George, a Stanhope employee, was off to war, protecting America from the Yellow Peril in the Pacific. But, as I found out as a young man during the Vietnam War, and as I'm discovering with this new war, war tears apart the social fabric of a nation, and you get a lot more diddling and fiddling going on.
I stared at Ethel's angelic face in the photograph. She really was beautiful. And lonely. And George was out of town for a while. And Augustus was rich and powerful. He was not, however, according to family accounts, a conniving and controlling prick like his son, my ex-father-in-law, William. I think Augustus was just horny (it runs in the Stanhope family), and if you look at a picture of Augustus' wife, Susan's grandmother, you can see why Augustus strayed. Susan, I guess, got her good looks from her mother, Charlotte, who is still attractive, though brainless.
And on the subject of brains and beauty, my children have both, and show no signs of the Stanhope tendency to be off their rockers. I'd like to say my children take after my side of the family, but my parents aren't good examples of mental health either. I think I was adopted. I hope and pray I was.
Actually, my father, Joseph, passed away while I was at sea, and I missed the funeral. Mother hasn't forgiven me. But that's nothing new.
And on the subject of children, paternity, and genetics, Ethel and George had one child, a daughter, Elizabeth, who's a nice woman and who lives in the area. Elizabeth gets her beauty from her mother, but looks enough like George to put my mind at ease about any more Stanhope heirs.
I'm taking the long view of this in terms of my children inheriting some of the Stanhope fortune. They deserve some money for putting up with Grandma and Grandpa all their lives. So do I, but a probate court might find my claim on the Stanhope estate-to reimburse me for years of putting up with William's bullshit-to be frivolous.
In any case, there is a history here-my own family goes back three hundred years on Long Island-and this history is entwined like the English ivy that covers the gatehouse and the guest cottage; interesting to look at from a distance, but obscuring the form and substance of the structure, eventually eating into the brick and mortar.
Excerpted from The Gate Houseby by Nelson DeMille Copyright © 2008 by Nelson DeMille. Excerpted by permission.
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