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Leamer (The Kennedy Women) reveals the secrets of the Palm Beach elite who reside behind the high walls and manicured hedges of this exclusive enclave. A winter resident since 1994, the author gains the trust of his subjects, playing tennis with them and attending their parties. Such firsthand experience is supplemented by newspaper articles and interviews with scores of men and women who, although usually guarded, are unusually open to Leamer (the informant for the chapter "Palm Beach Millionaire Seeks Playmate" gave the author access to his personal papers, including unpublished memoirs). The book's highly visual vignettes-dominated by divorce, infidelity, excessive drinking and violence-produce a depressing picture of sad, angry, insecure and frequently nasty people hiding behind empty smiles, luxury cars and socially invisible servants. Leamer reflects: "Like [Henry] James, I found that few of the lives have the beauty of the surroundings, or the depths of the artistic vision that inspired this island." Some readers may find this book a penetrating portrayal of a privileged segment of the American population; others might regard it as a book-length gossip column. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.