The return of blue-blooded fashionista Pauline Cook, whose search for a missing friend leads her from an iconoclastic book group to the deepest and most unfashionable reaches of the Far East.
Back in Chicago after a disastrous European love affair, socialite Pauline Cook finds her finances nearly depleted, her co-op a shambles, and her best friend mysteriously missing—vanished along with Pauline's cat. Though Whitney Armstrong's husband offers a substantial reward for the return of his lost wife, Pauline can't help suspecting that his grief is merely an act. But it's a shocking suggestion by a member of Whitney's book club that really gets Pauline moving—halfway around the world, in fact, to Thailand . . . in spite of a psychic's warning of terrible danger.
In Asia, a morass of dark motives and deadly corporate intrigues await the intrepid globe-trotter. And all the high society connections in the world aren't going to ensure that Pauline makes it home alive. . . .
About the Author
Catherine O'Connell divides her time between Chicago and Aspen, and sits on the board of the Aspen Writers' Foundation. A graduate of the University of Colorado School of Journalism, she is also the author of Well Bred and Dead.
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Well Read and Dead
My plastic surgeon assures me that not only will the burns heal entirely but that since they were only first-degree my skin might become smoother and younger looking than before. Frankly I'd rather have had the chemical peel. Cosmetic issues aside, it's the internal wounds that trouble me more. Are they also first degree or will they prove beyond healing? I suppose only the balm of time will tell. In the meantime while waiting to see the final results, I seldom stray from bed as I replay the drama of the last months over and over again. Though all the warnings were laid in front of me, they were too close for me to see them. Now each time I revisit the drama, it becomes clearer who the players were and who were merely chorus. But unfortunately, like all Greek tragedy, the outcome is always the same.
In retrospect, it may have been a bit excessive for a party of one to charter a hundred-and-twenty-foot yacht just for herself. At sixty thousand dollars a week. Plus gratuity. But my frivolity at the time was not without justification. Having chosen to spend the autumn in Europe while my penthouse underwent a renovation, I happened to be in Portofino the day a group of pathetic zealots commandeered four airplanes and crashed them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, killing untold numbers and propelling us mentally back to the Middle Ages. In the weeks following the disaster, nearly all my friends overseas decided to return stateside, turning the mood abroad so somber that I contemplated returning home myself. The problem was that with myapartment under construction, I had no home to return to.
That's when Gianfranco entered the picture. I was strolling along the dock, wrestling over what course to take next, when I came upon him standing in the shadow of a sleek Benetti with the name Herakles stenciled in gold across her ample stern. With his tall, muscular frame draped in nautical whites, his sandy brown hair falling in loose curls along his face, and the regal profile of a Roman coin, he cut quite an Adonis-like figure. I stopped in pretense of admiring the yacht, and he engaged me in conversation, lamenting in broken English that his autumn charter had just been canceled. The Americans who had hired the Herakles for a tour of the antiquities were now too frightened to travel overseas. Perhaps I might be interested in such a charter? A quick tour of the vessel ensued, and my dilemma of how to spend the next months was solved. I chartered the orphaned Herakles myself. And felt rather patriotic about it, I might add. What better way to show the terrorists that Pauline Cook was not about to buckle under to their agenda of fear than by continuing to lead a full life?
I rushed back to the Splendido to settle my bill—a sum equal to the budget of a small third-world country—and soon thereafter my seven pieces of luggage and I were delivered dockside by the hotel's car. An hour later, I stood beside Gianfranco on the bridge of the yacht with a warm September breeze brushing my shoulders. As we watched the gentle hills of Portofino recede in the afternoon glow, my capitano assured me that I would never regret choosing to take this intimate tour.
"I will take-a you places you only dream of-a visit," he promised.
And take me he did. We hadn't made twenty nautical miles into the Adriatic when Gianfranco turned the wheel over to his first mate and escorted me belowdecks where he proved his sublimely tuned and tanned body to be more than seaworthy. For the next two and a half glorious months, certain all my interests at home were being looked after by competent parties, I gave little thought to the present-day world and immersed myself in the ancient one with Gianfranco as my captain, companion, and tour guide.
Together we explored the farthest reaches of the Hellenic and Roman empires. We visited Ilium, where the ill-fated Trojans made the poor choice of accepting the Greek's four-legged gift. We traipsed the ruins left by the Minoans at Knossos, often thought to be the lost civilization of Atlantis. We traveled to Actium where I felt the ghosts of Marc Antony and Cleopatra stir. When the weather grew cooler, we sailed south to Alexandria, the site of a library that once held 400,000 priceless scrolls whose ashes were now but dust in the wind.
And while the Herakles put in at one port after another, Gianfranco continued to put in at all points in between, a pastime I enjoyed as much, if not more, than the touring. Having breached the dreaded half-century mark over a year ago, I reveled in having a young paramour, though I did wonder what he would say if he knew he was making love to a woman nearly fifteen years his elder. Fortuitously, time had treated me well, and my skin did not reveal my age. This was the mixed blessing of growing up as a redhead who had to take shelter from the sun or risk looking like a beet. The summers of my youth were spent cowering beneath wide-brimmed hats and beach umbrellas while my peers cavorted gaily in the sun. Now while those same peers paid the price for their earlier freedom, having their faces pulled back to gather up the crevices carved out by youthful indiscretion, I gloried in the delayed benefits of my exile.
I had also been blessed with a trim figure, a benefit that comes along with standing five foot ten in one's stocking feet. And since I never bore children, there were no untoward stretch marks to be dealt with either, though I must concede each year the drapery of my body seemed to hang slightly lower. But this seemed to matter naught to my young lover, who claimed his preferences ran to mature women, explaining that the ripe-a pear-a has the sweetest taste and finest perfume while an unripe pear is hard-a and no taste-a so good.Well Read and Dead. Copyright © by Catherine O'Connell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
What People are Saying About This
“Ms. O’Connell is...a hell of a storyteller, a master of plot, [and] a tart observer of the social scene.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read this book in one day because I could not put it down. I'd read the first one, WELL BRED AND DEAD, so I knew what to expect as far as the superb storytelling--both in the writing and the plotting, and the (I'll call her) outrageous main character go. And I wasn't disappointed. The main character, Pauline Cook, is hilarious because half the time she doesn't see where she's a snob and the other half of the time she does see it and can't imagine that anyone in her right mind could be otherwise under those circumstances. I laughed out loud so many times that my cats ran out of the room (I never said I had a dainty laugh!), especially during the short bedroom scene where Pauline thinks she's finally got the unattached, aging billionnaire right where she wants him. Pauline seems to always be on the brink of bankruptcy but there's almost no area in her life where she can bear to cut back -- not on the $2,000 dresses, the first class travel, the champagne, the designer everything. As she's buying $300 bottles of wine or paying thousands extra for upgrading her airline ticket, she laments her fate (is she never to have financial security?) And yet when it comes to what she owes others, she is the cheapest woman around...paying the doorman $10 for taking care of her cat for several days (that might have been in the first book) and arguing over having to pay a $5 tip instead of $4. I was afraid Pauline would be too shallow to have my sympathy, but Catherine O'Connell pulls it off brilliantly. She makes Pauline not only likable, but admirable as well. The only thing I have a problem with is the fact that this book just came out, so I'm going to have to wait a while for the next one. Dang!
Ms O'Connell's lastest work is a "Can't Put It Down" mystery novel. The heroine's (Pauline Cook) first person stream of conscientious leads the reader far and wide in solving the mystery. Ms O'Connell is a serious wordsmith, one not to be missed. Well Done indeed!!
I read Well Bred and Dead, the debut, and enjoyed it enough to read Well Read and Dead but this is a much better work. This book delves deeper into the characters, especially Pauline, so you learn why she is the way she is. Highly recommended.
While her penthouse is being renovated, socialite Pauline Cook is on Gianfranco¿s yacht cruising the Mediterranean. It was when the cruise for two ended she realized he was married. It is in Paris she learns that her stock portfolio mostly invested in Enron is worthless. She rushes home to Chicago to find contractor Tag McKay overseeing the renovation. She is attracted to him though he is not in her social class and besides she needs to marry a rich man right away that hopefully she can love while he keeps her in the lifestyle she is accustomed to.
Before she goes husband hunting, Pauline visits her closest friend Whitney Armstrong to pick up her cat Fleur. Whitney¿s husband Jack says his wife is missing and offers Pauline five million dollars to find her; he later raises the reward to ten million. With bills mounting and no income to pay them, though way out of her element Pauline begins a search that leads her to Thailand, from there to Cambodia where Jack¿s factory is located and back to Thailand where she begins getting answers. When she returns to the States, a woman she does not know tries to kill Pauline.
Pauline is a member of the hoi polloi jet setters in which olde money is everything and those without are not worthy of their attention except as servants. However, her inquiry takes her into worlds she never imagined; this changes her. Her husband hunting amidst the Fortune Five Hundred is amusing and ironic when she falls in love with a middle class blue collar working stiff. As Pauline matures from spoiled snobbish socialite to valuing all types of people, she makes Catherine O¿Connell¿s fine thriller WELL READ AND DEAD an engaging read.