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Kirkus ReviewsAnother go at the story of billionaire heiress Doris Duke that raises more questions than it answers about her life, her death, and her last will and testament.
Schwarz (Rose Kennedy: A Life of Faith, Family, and Tragedy, 1995) tries to take a more evenhanded approach to Duke's life story than last year's trashing by her cousin Pony Duke in Too Rich: The Family Secrets of Doris Duke. Coauthor Rybak worked for about two years as Duke's personal chef and was also partly responsible for the hiring of the infamous butler, the late Bernard Lafferty, who supervised—and perhaps helped to hasten—Duke's death in 1993 at age 80. According to the authors, Duke's father, Buck, was the primary influence in her life, the man who taught Doris to "trust no one" and passed on his own obsessions: sex, money, and agriculture. As to sex, Doris's lovers were numerous and varied, from her first husband, the well-bred but financially strapped Jimmy Cromwell, to the jazz pianist Joey Castro. As for money and agriculture, Doris nurtured the Duke fortune from millions to billions and along the way became a botanical expert, specializing in orchids. She was also an accomplished jazz pianist with some recordings to her credit. Although Duke gets recognition for her accomplishments, including her expertise in Eastern art, this biography indulges heavily in speculation about family crimes, including several "murders." Credibility shrinks from sloppy inconsistencies and offensive characterizations, such as the description of Irish immigrants as "drinking, dancing and brawling." The book ends with long, unenlightening excerpts from civil and criminal investigations relating to Duke's death and her will, and peculiar paeans to an attorney representing some Duke employees.
An attempt at a fair hearing for the headline heiress that is negated by trivia and hearsay.