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Palace Council

3.63  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,110 Ratings  ·  206 Reviews

“Carter twists plotlines like pretzels while wryly skewering America’s wealthy intellectual elite.”–People

John Grisham called Stephen L. Carter’s first novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park, “beautifully written and cleverly plotted. A rich, complex family saga, one deftly woven through a fine legal thriller.” The Chicago Tribune hailed Carter’s next book, New England White, as

Hardcover, 528 pages
Published July 8th 2008 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,922)
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Mar 31, 2011 Lobstergirl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Dumpster
Shelves: got-rid-of, fiction
I want to weep with disgust that a book can be so banal, and so long. Reading it was mentally exhausting, and emotionally distressing, because it was so dull, and yet so complicated. It's a murder mystery, a political thriller, a missing persons quest, ranging from 1952 to 1975, among Harlem's black upper class. It has Dan Brown-like elements of conspiracy; riddles are solved with the help of passages from Paradise Lost and Lady Chatterley's Lover. The most annoying thing is Carter's insistence ...more
Jul 15, 2008 Nicky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a great summer read - a political thriller chock full of conspiracy theories and shady dealings, but told from the perspective of Harlem's upper crust in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. While I consider myself fairly well educated, being white and a native Iowan did not provide me with the best insight into African-American life during the mid-1900s. The world Carter describes is fascinating, and the characters are well-developed and intricate. So while he may be covering some old historical groun ...more
Beth Allen
Sep 26, 2008 Beth Allen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Beth by: NPR
This is a very good book, in many ways a great one.

For me, it was almost too intricate, too finely plotted, for this feeble brain to keep up with! I've spent much of the last week finishing Palace Council as I nurse a bad back, and perhaps my brain is wilted a bit as well.

Palace Council is a long book (over 500 pages). The author's note at the end is also worth reading, because Carter explains little changes he made to history, in order to fit in with Eddie Wesley's journey.

The real heroes of th
Before I rip on this book, I want to state clearly that I liked it pretty well and I like Stephen Carter's voice.

This book could use a very efficient editor. The plot wanders, and there are too many twists. It makes me think of being a kid sitting in church during the sermon, and the preacher would use his "wrapping it up" cadence, and then plunge right back in and keep going. Palace Council had too many non-climaxes. Also, too many characters. Ultimately, it was confusing, which can easily sli
Mar 27, 2009 Vivian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another great book from one of my favorite authors. Terrific legal fiction set between 1954 and 1974. Intelligently written, it is full of historical figures, conspiracy theories and intrigue. It has plenty of twists and turns. Eddie Wesley and Aurelia Treene are complex, fully developed characters.

This is definitely a page turner, but "The Emperor of Ocean Park" is still my favorite. Make no mistake though, this is no light read. I highly recommend.

Bookmarks Magazine

Oh critics, how ye disagree! Many found Palace Council overly long and complained that the "thriller" parts came and went at random. It's also a bad sign in a genre that depends on flash/bang finales if the ending is considered weak. On a separate note, Edward and Aurelia witness more historical events than Forrest Gump

Suzette Tanen
Aug 06, 2012 Suzette Tanen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book's historical references, the 50's and 60's from a black perspective made for a very interesting mystery story.
Aug 07, 2011 Malika rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OK, so he can be wordy. Really wordy. But Carter's books are getting better each time.

This book clenched me just after the prologue, because he gets right to the mystery by page 6. I especially enjoy Carter's way of titling chapters "Again the Carpenter" (for example), when a character resurfaces after a gap of time. It's a great way for the reader to go back and remember the last exhange.

If you are new to Carter's books, I suggest to read them in order of publication, because his writing style
Aug 05, 2011 Annabelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like Carter as an author a lot; he is an African American attorney who sets the stage for A.A. life in the U. S. In this novel the protagonist is Eddie an author who rises to meteoric status as a fiction writer and then a popular essayist for The Nation and The Rolling Stone. He talks to Nixon and other important people of the day. The best thing about this novel, is the depiction of life in Harlem by the A.A. aristocracy, and the movement of people in society. Of particular interest is that E ...more
Apr 14, 2013 Bill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
A Slow Ramble Through The Sixties, (2012)

Carter, Stephen L. (2008). Palace Council. New York: Vintage.

The characters are interesting and well-rounded in this saga of a prominent black community in Harlem, from the mid-1950’s to the mid-1970’s. Eddie Wesley is a black (“Negro”) writer who achieves sudden early fame and prosperity, which admits him into the upper echelons of rich black society. He loves Aurelia, but she marries someone else for money and status. Her relationship with Eddie neverth
If you cannot get into the characters within the first few pages, you may not enjoy this as the plot is not as engaging as it may seem, and the focuse of the book is to see how the characters interact/develop.

Other reviews here at the site are quite accurate.
Stephen L. Carter is an excellent author his characters are well drawn, real and easy to become interested in. Also, the subject matter of the small, but often influential African American upper class of the 50s'-60's is interesting and cl
Mar 03, 2015 Tammy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not for the mentally lazy. The reader will work on every page to keep up or be lost forever in the twists and turns of this one. That said, I accepted the challenge and emerged victorious and thoroughly entertained.
Mar 03, 2015 Cliff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am surprised at some of the negative reviews of this book. But don't read it if your idea of a good thriller is a typical American one of two page chapters heavily leaded out with breathless action on every page. This book is quite different. It is an INTELLIGENT read. Part thriller, part political conspiracy, part love story, seen through the eyes of a black American novelist. It takes the reader from the Eisenhower years, through the Kennedy assassination to the resignation of Nixon. But the ...more
Jan 01, 2009 Stefanie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
one word:

There are so many characters and the novel spans two decades. I found it really hard to follow and even at the end I wasn't exactly sure what had happened throughout the story. Also confusing was the fact that some of the "characters" are actual historical figures - Kennedy, Nixon, Langston Hughes, etc.

It was still ok, and interesting if you enjoy Carter's first two stories - some of the characters in his earlier novels are "born" during this one. I loved his first two novels b
Apr 14, 2016 June rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book. At a few places I thought it had continued beyond a good ending. However, when I got to the actual ending, I was satisfied. There were several story strands that all had to finish together and could not have done so earlier in the book.

The author has a message: political violence is not necessary. He skillfully weaves in historical events to tell his message and give it verisimilitude. He uses what is usually seen as a tragedy -- Watergate -- as a symbol of hope that political
Jun 17, 2014 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Palace Council is a big, sprawling, character driven novel. At its center is a vast conspiracy reaching into the Oval Office; threatening the social and political fabric of the country. The story spans over twenty years, from the early 1950’s to the mid ‘70’s. Our protagonist, writer Eddie Wesley, literally stumbles into this labyrinth of intrigue after discovering a dead body outside of a Harlem mansion.

Thus begins our story and Eddie’s two decade long quest, first bouncing between DC and NYC a
Tirza Sanders
I really like how smart Stephen Carter's books are. He combines mystery with history and explores upper class African American communities that are not widely written about. That said, I found this book a bit slow. It has such a large scope, spans several decades, and has many characters. I had a difficult time getting into the book and caring what happened to the characters. I have enjoyed other Carter books and really wanted to like it but I found it a challenge to finish.
Jan 03, 2014 Kimberly rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't get this book over with fast enough. There was waaaayyyy too much going on with this story. Mainly there were too many coincidences which make for a bad mystery and the use of real life historical people as characters wasn't to my liking. Seriously, making the main characters friends with Nixon just wasn't believable. I did however like that the author used some of the same characters from his previous books, and that his characters hail from the middle class.
Elizabeth Williams
Nov 07, 2014 Elizabeth Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very unusual book - difficult to classify it but I have really enjoyed reading it.
This is definitely an entertaining read--it kept me up an hour later than I intended at the close--but I never could suspend my disbelief fully. The protagonist has a little bit of a Forrest Gump tendency to land right in the midst of major historical events which felt contrived. And I don't know if Carter is just a lot smarter than me, but I tend to leave his mysteries going. "Wait. What just happened?" I'm never entirely clear about whodunit.
Carol Hunter
Jul 18, 2008 Carol Hunter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Carter is a very literary "legal thriller" author whose books are dense reads about the African-American upper class. This new addition continues the twists and turns of his suspenseful novels. I really enjoyed how he includes famous people such as Nixon and Langston Hughes as some of his characters in this interesting read which spans the years of 1952-1974.
Stephen Burns
Carter has a peculiar style, in that he tells more than he shows, but he's a good storyteller. Palace Council isn't his best work, but it is interesting. Unfortunately, the last audio disk from the library didn't work. I have the book on order from the library, so no, I don't know how it ends yet.
Like others who have read this, I, too, felt this was in need of some serious editing. However, this is still an engrossing book, although I didn't like it as much as New England White. I did lose interest in the characters a bit by the end, and found the ending less than satisfying.
Aug 02, 2011 Peggy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Emperor of Ocean Park was the best of the three books in this "series." The storyline got a little farfetched and had a less than satisfying ending, but the obvious and not always flattering allusions to more recent political leaders was worth a chuckle.
Too verbose. Not the entertainment I was looking for. Gave up on it after 150 pages
Rick Killian
Mar 10, 2015 Rick Killian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was intricate and complex. At times I got lost in it, and at other times I was just lost. I actually quit reading it at one point, then came back to it recently and finished it. I am glad I did.

If you want something that will stretch you to keep up with all of the history and details, and have some focused time to get lost in a story, this might be a good book for you. Mr. Carter writes very well, but this was not my favorite of his books—I liked Emperor of Ocean Park best of all.
May 21, 2012 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
In the last of Carter's "Elm Harbor" series, he surely saved the best for last. Not as 'thick' as the other two books, Carter still takes us on a great ride to discover murderers, kidnappers, and the place the 'darker nation' (his word, not mine) has in the US political scene from the 1950s to mid-70s. From the inauguration of Eisenhowser in '53 through to the shameful departure of Nixon in '74, Carter weaves a tale a generation in the making to put some of the key pieces together, as they relat ...more
Scott Rhee
Oct 18, 2011 Scott Rhee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, politics
Another excellent mystery from Stephen L. Carter, "Palace Council" tells the story of the turbulent 1960s through the eyes of Eddie Wesley, a young black man from upper-class Harlem, and Aurelia Treene, Eddie's first and only love. On the night of her wedding (to another man), Eddie gets embarrassingly drunk and is booted from the reception. Stumbling through the park at night, he trips on the body of a well-known lawyer. Gripped in the man's hand is an inverted cross with a cryptic message engr ...more
Phyllis Sommers
Feb 13, 2013 Phyllis Sommers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As is the case with the other novels I've read by this author, the greatest value of Carter's stories is the historical fiction they impart. "Palace Council" traces the rise of the African American community from the 1950s through the mid-1970s, and does so as it focuses on the rise of "Negro" professor and renowned author, Edward 'Eddie' Wesley and his family, lovers and friends. Eddie's life is shaped early on, when his one true love, Aurelia Treene, marries Kevin Garland, an up and coming pol ...more
Jul 26, 2011 Stuart rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the Palace Council, Stephen Carter takes on a long tour of the 1960’s (His definition includes the years 1954 to 1974). Our tour guide is Eddie Wesley, an upcoming African-American (the term changes through the decades) novelist, who stumbles upon a murder and thereby into a multi-generational and indeed multi-racial conspiracy to control the US Presidency. The conspirators as we gradually discover more about them, turn out to have their own wheels within wheels also.
The book gives us a view
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Stephen L. Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale where he has taught since 1982. He has published seven critically acclaimed nonfiction books on topics ranging from affirmative action to religion and politics. His first novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park (2002), was an immediate national best seller. His latest novel is New England White (Knopf, 2007). A recipient of the NAA ...more
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