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The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,772 Ratings  ·  626 Reviews
A real-life Talented Mr. Ripley, the unbelievable thirty-year run of a shape-shifting con man.The story of Clark Rockefeller is a stranger-than-fiction twist on the classic American success story of the self-made man-because Clark Rockefeller was totally made up. The career con man who convincingly passed himself off as Rockefeller was born in a small village in Germany. A ...more
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Published June 2nd 2011 by Penguin Audio (first published January 1st 2011)
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Not only did I read (well, technically, listen to) this in one day, but practically in one sitting. It's the story of an absurdly audacious man – a criminal without conscience for whom I have no respect, but whose life/long con (one in the same, in many respects) intrigued me nonetheless. What can I say? I'm a sucker for true crime, and this one's a whopper.

Né (or should I say geboren?) Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter , the young German made his first American "contacts" while thumbing rides on t
Nov 05, 2011 Cynthia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Study in Illness….and Evil

This book left me wondering how so many intelligent and aware people fell for ‘Rockefeller’s’ shenanigans. He grew up in a small German town where he already showed signs of manipulativeness, brutality and mental illness. Hitchhiking in Germany Christian K. Gerhartsreiter (Rockefeller’s given name) meets an older vacationing American couple who he forms a friendship with only to turn up on their doorstep in the States a year or so later. They’re bemused but take him i
Clif Hostetler
Jun 18, 2015 Clif Hostetler rated it liked it
Shelves: history
If you prefer mystery stories that are nonfiction, this book fits the bill. Everybody I know who's read this book says something like, "How in the world did he manage get away with it?" This guy managed to assume various identities over a twenty-eight year period, and in spite of some audacious claims was able to get most people to believe him.

He was married for twelve years to a high-earning executive who had graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School. This apparently intell
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
I get that this is a true story however it read more like a great mystery novel. What a life this guy led, bizarre is the best adjective I can come up with. This is a beyond doubt an entertaining read and a refreshing change from the blood & gore prevalent in most True Crime stories.
Gena Gilliam
Late last night I finished the tale of a con-artist and murder suspect who fooled many people over the course of almost thirty years! I am intrigued by "Clark Rockefeller," whose stories were so outrageous that most people he came into contact with actually believed that he was a member of the Rockefeller family. While I will continue to be intrigued by this character, and I especially want to see how he fares in his upcoming trial for the murder of a couple from San Marino, CA, I was not as imp ...more
Elizabeth A
Dec 28, 2015 Elizabeth A rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, 2015, non-fiction
I listened to the audiobook, which was really well narrated by Erik Singer, for my book club this month. I had to give myself a couple of days after I completed the book to see how this one settled before I reviewed it. And here's the thing, there are parts I loved and parts I felt dragged on and on.

I did not know much about this story going in, other than the broad strokes: a man named Clark Rockefeller kidnapped his child, and it was discovered that he was an impostor. Yes, he was the kid's fa
Nov 17, 2013 Judy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of true crime
An excellent, concise account of the life of Christian Gerhartsreiter, a German immigrant who pulled one of the most incredible con jobs of all time. Not being a huge fan of true crime, I put off listening to this book until I received notification from my library that they would not be renewing their association at the end of the year with the audiobook company providing the download for this book. so, out of necessity I started listening. I am glad I did, because the story is incredible, both ...more
Jul 18, 2011 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this as it's one of my favorite genres-- the true crime/getting into the head of a sociopath or psychopath story. I was a little disappointed in it because it was basically the unraveling of this man's background, with facts of who he really was and all the personas he manufactured for himself. But the essence of the man was missing, which is what I kept looking for. No fault of the author's, I'm sure, because what made this imposter so successful was his ability to completely hide his ...more
Sep 10, 2011 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Angie
This story was so impelling and astounding. I was completely riveted throughout the telling. I'm still amazed that he was able to dupe people for as long as he did without getting caught until recently. The book was superbly written, keeping me wanting to continue long past the time to quit for the night. Alas, sometimes I just had to turn off the light and get some sleep! I highly recommend this book.
Apr 07, 2014 Riccol rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
ARGG! Where to start on this? I'll start with a spoiler I guess as way of advice. The book ends abruptly with "Rockefeller" in prison on kidnapping charges and due to be released soon, until a new charge (murder) is leveled against him. As coincidence would have it and unbeknown to me until after I finished the book this morning, the trial for that murder charge began this week.. So my advice is, if this case interests you, skip this book and just follow the news instead. You'll get the pertinen ...more
Matt Walker
May 17, 2016 Matt Walker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new-york-city
I burned through this book in just six days. A true story almost beyond belief. A German immigrant named Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter comes to America in 1978 and assumes a series of false identities, culminating in his 16-year charade as "Clark Rockefeller". Along the way he wins over an entire town by claiming to be a British aristocrat, murders at least one person, lands a management job in a major Wall Street firm, and fathers a child he eventually kidnaps after his wife divorces him. If a ...more
Apr 03, 2014 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I simply could not put this book down. This utterly fascinating story of a brilliant sociopath raises so many questions. Why was everyone so utterly convinced he was who he said he was when so much of his story didn't add up and his identity would have been so easy to check? When he said he was Baron Christopher Chichester, it would have been simple enough to check Debrett's Peerage. For his other identities: The Social Register, the Yale Alumni Directory... When he was pretending to be Clark Ro ...more
Aug 15, 2011 Kathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember reading about this case - I read the Boston Globe almost everyday online. "Clark Rockefeller" had kidnapped his daughter in Boston (he was divorced) and fled to Baltimore where he was eventually captured and his daughter was safe. Reading true crime books is like eating junk food for me. I can't stop reading the book. Clark Rockefeller's real name - Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter was from Germany and he came to this country in 1978. He was the master of deception (okay Bernie Madoff ma ...more
Sep 30, 2012 Nenette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had an office colleague before who hitched a ride with me going home. I did not ask, but he volunteered that his car was off the road on that day (color coding scheme in Metro Manila). I never thought anything of that remark until I learned later on that he didn't have a car. He also mentioned about a girlfriend, one that existed only in his mind. Then there was this classmate back in high school, who presented herself as someone from a well-off family. It turned out she was just playing the p ...more
Chris Lemery
Jul 29, 2012 Chris Lemery rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good book about a very, very good impostor most famously known as Clark Rockefeller, whose real name is Christian Gerhartsreiter. The most remarkable thing about Gerhartsreiter is the fact that he reinvented himself 4 or 5 different times. He was able to disappear so completely every time he created a new identity that the detectives working on his case say they felt as if they were chasing a ghost. Some of his identities were quite different from one another, which makes pulling ...more
Sep 14, 2011 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
This book is an interesting look at the multiple personas of one Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter who at age 17 arrived in the USA from Germany on a student visa posing as an exchange student ready to make a new life for himself. This was 1978 and for over 30 years he managed to dupe those he came into contact with into believing he was; - a student at Wisconsin University, Christopher Kenneth Gerhart, in San Marino California, a member of the British Royal family, Christoper Mountbatten Chichester ...more
Before the advent of Facebook stalking, there was a precocious teen named Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter who lit out of a small German town and made for the United States in the guise of an exchange student. He gave his name an American makeover, studied Thurston Howell III's upper-class accent. He coaxed an unassuming Wisconsin-ite into a quickie green card marriage, then oozed his way into the Roladex of the rich widows of San Marino, California.

Journalist Mark Seal has written a account of th
Feb 04, 2012 Danny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I went into this not knowing much about the case at the heart of the book, even though the kidnapping that allowed it all to unravel took place less than 5 years ago. It's truly amazing how gullible we can be, how little it takes for us to believe someone who's smiling or think the best of a stranger. And that's good, who wants to live in a world rife with suspicion and paranoia? Still, there are bad people out there and this guy is one of them.

Here's the skinny: There was this German guy who wa
John Pappas
Apr 21, 2013 John Pappas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The astonishing tale of the audacious Christian Gerhartsreiter -- a charismatic German boy who managed, by creating multiple personae (related to Lord Mountbatten, or the Rockefellers, for instance), to gain admittance into some of the most elite circles in America, talk his way into a position at a stockbroker when he had no knowledge of how to sell securities, become a member of the famed Algonquin Club and otherwise bamboozle almost everyone he met. Mark Seal presents a gripping, compelling t ...more
May 01, 2016 Fishface rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
This was a remarkable story, overall well-written. I have to say the book dragged in the middle because it just went on and on and on about the guy's layered deceptions, all centered around his enthrallment with Thurston P. Howell III and alligator shirts...and none of it seemed to make anyone suspicious or really lead anywhere until the very end, when suddenly he was in a courtroom in handcuffs and the truth was out. Bang! The end! Almost! Because nothing much was resolved yet when the book wen ...more
Γιώργος Λιαδής
Η ζωή ενός ανθρώπου που χρησιμοποίησε το όνομα Ροκφέλερ (μεταξύ άλλων) ξεγελώντας για δεκαετίες τους πάντες, ενώ ζούσε σαν ζάμπλουτος. Η ιστορία δεν είναι ακριβώς διασκεδαστική (κάποιοι άνθρωποι έχασαν την ζωή τους) και το βιβλίο είναι κακογραμμένο και βαρετό. Αν δεν ήταν η αληθινή ιστορία, αν δεν είχε αυτό το τρομερό εφέ που μου προκαλεί οτιδήποτε "αήθινό", θα το είχα παρατήσει στην μέση.
Jun 25, 2011 Camelama rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deeply fascinating unweaving of a lair's lies that ran for over 40 years. This man's life may have included murders, did include kidnapping, stealing, lying about who he was, using his (assumed) names to scam people out of money, just over all a Bad Man.

And yet people kept forgiving him, even after the truth was revealed. Holy cow. And how amazing how people just blindly accepted that he was a Rockefeller, without checking into it. Including the woman he married (under that name) and had a kid
Terri Durling
Jun 03, 2013 Terri Durling rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am always a fan of the "true" story as expressed by an often quoted saying of mine "but it's true" which seems to give any story that extra edge. A friend mentioned that they saw a made-for-television movie on this character so I became intrigued and found this book on him. He had many names but was most notoriously known as Clark Rockefeller. Arrogant, narcisstic, snobby, eccentric - he charms his way into people's lives with outrageous lies and behaviour that most know are concocted but they ...more
Debra Komar
Feb 15, 2016 Debra Komar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Far superior to the Walter Kirn book "Blood will out," so much so that it's hard to believe they are telling the same story. In both books, the authors make themselves characters in the story, although Seal displays far less ego than Kirn.

Here the story is not told in chronological order - not a problem per se but there is a lot of jumping around in time and space, particularly at the beginning. Also, this book was written before the final chapter of the story unfolded, and there is some effort
Oct 24, 2014 Milka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine mixing "The Talented Mr Ripley" and "Catch Me If You Can", including the false identities, the money stealing, the power of persuasion and even the murders... That's what "The Man in the Rockefeller Suit" is, and the most amazing thing is, this is a TRUE story. If this guy hadn't kipnapped his own daughter a few years ago and been a little careless, he'd still be on the run pretending to be heir to another famous, super rich family. It's hard to believe he managed to con so many people i ...more
Anna (
Really fascinating. Great non-fiction read if you like true crime/con stories!
Thea Rodgers
Apr 02, 2015 Thea Rodgers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
GREAT book! Shockingly true
Sep 17, 2012 Torrie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars: I chose to read this book because I had originally heard about the imposter/con-man, "Clark Rockefeller," on Dateline, a few months ago. This true story is a bit "Catch me if you can"-eque and details how "Clark Rockefeller" changed his identity multiple times, charming and deceiving everyone in his life for years. The story itself is very interesting, but the book was slow at times, due to too extraneous details which I didn't feel were necessary for understanding the story. Overall, ...more
Jun 14, 2016 Alyson rated it really liked it
I wonder how I could have possibly missed this story in the news when it was happening. Perhaps because I live in the West? It is amazing to me how a German boy from Bavaria could convince people that he was an American aristocrat. The author does a good job of offering reasons - one because Clark Rockefeller (one of his many names) almost seemed to believe it himself. Another was because of how intelligent he was and also because people are just trusting.

The author follows this life of Christi
Sep 18, 2015 Dramatika rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this on a commute to and from work in one day, finishing up in the evening. The story of the impostor who was able to fool every one around him is a verg quick entertaining read. I get the feeling that many people were eager to be fooled, so much the halo of the name of rich and powerful name attracted them. We are all human. And I more than agree with of the victims, the former wife Sandra Boss, even if you are intelligent with a degree from the best univercity, you can still be not very ...more
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A journalist for thirty-five years, Mark Seal is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and the author of Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Death in Africa, about the murdered wildlife filmmaker and naturalist Joan Root. Seal was a 2010 National Magazine Award finalist for his Vanity Fair profile of Clark Rockefeller.

He lives in Aspen, Colorado.
More about Mark Seal...

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