I had mentioned to a friend that I hadn’t read any books by Nelson DeMille and she raved over his 1990 novel, The Gold Coast, saying it wasn’t a typical DeMille, but was the best he had written. DeMille has written several detective/espionage thrillers — and The Gold Coast doesn’t follow that type of plot. But being the best? I think that may depend on what you’re looking for in a novel.
John Sutter and his wife, Susan, are comfortable, and perhaps a bit bored, with their life on Long Island’s North Shore, an area “that once held the greatest concentration of wealth and power in America.” They live in the guest house of a 55-room mansion owned by Susan’s parents. While wealthy, they aren’t in the strata of the wealthiest, like their new neighbor, mafia don Frank Bellarosa. But they have respectability, and Frank certainly doesn’t.
Frank does have a certain dangerous appeal, and Susan and John find themselves dining with their neighbor and gradually becoming seduced by the power and charisma of the mafia don.
As John becomes more disenchanted with his “normal” life and superficial friends, he also finds himself making reckless decisions which eventually lead him to representing Frank in criminal proceedings.
There were many parts of this novel that I enjoyed.
I liked the main character, John Sutter. John has a sarcastic wit, which surprisingly doesn’t get him in trouble as often as it should. He gets away with saying what’s on his mind with seemingly no personal regrets.
I enjoyed the exciting courtroom scene toward the end of the book where John has to find where Frank is being arraigned on murder charges. There is a great back-and-forth tension between John and the Attorney General.
My favorite part of the novel is the sense of place. DeMille does a good job describing the mansions on the Gold Coast. And not just the mansions in their former glory, with the recreated libraries and Roman temples, but the reality of the abandoned homes and neglected gardens. DeMille portrays the reactions of the neighbors when these expensive historic homes are sold off for tract housing or bought by foreign investors. It was a fascinating glimpse into an unbelievably wealthy world.
We read this as a recent selection for my book group. Reactions were mixed. Some liked the book for the same reasons I did, others said the plot dragged and they found the characters unlikeable.
DeMille wrote a sequel in 2008, which picks up John, Susan, and Frank’s son Anthony a decade later. We have both The Gold Coast and The Gate House in the library collection.
Check the WRL catalog for The Gold Coast
Check the WRL catalog for sequel, The Gate House