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The Emperor of Ocean Park

3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  4,965 Ratings  ·  631 Reviews
A riveting novel of ambition, revenge and the power of familial obligations.

Talcott Garland is a successful law professor and devoted family man. When his father, a disgraced former Supreme Court nominee, is found dead under suspicious circumstances, Talcott suspects foul play. Guided by the elements of a mysterious puzzle that his father left, Talcott must risk his marria
Paperback, 848 pages
Published May 29th 2007 by Random House Inc. (first published 2002)
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Oct 12, 2015 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though it took me FOREVER to finish, I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. Had it been 100-200 pages shorter and the editing a bit tighter, I would have given it a five star rating.

The characters are what drew me into the book and kept me there. While I've certainly seen and known educated and upper middle class African Americans like Talcott aka Misha (a law professor)and his wife Kimmer (a lawyer) in real life, I've rarely encountered them in the world of fiction and never with
Navidad Thelamour
The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter hit the shelves with guns blazing over a decade ago, spurred by a multi-million-dollar book deal and rave reviews. His debut fiction novel, it stood out from the pack in that it’s written around the most highly educated of black society’s upper echelon and, more so, because it was written by a member of that very caste rather than by an outsider trying to immolate the nuances, prejudices, experiences and insights that could only be accurately and c ...more
Apr 30, 2008 David rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Johnny
Shelves: completed
This was one of the moodiest books I have ever read. A well-to-do African American family come together for the funeral of the family patriarch, a judge who once was in the running for a Supreme Court seat, but because of his connection with "Uncle Jack," a shadowy underworld figure, removed himself from consideration in disgrace.

This author is one of the best "mood-setters" I have ever read. He is able to describe alternately the joy of raising a child and the delight of discovering life throu
Apr 27, 2008 Plsullivan023 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Carter has an extraordinary command of the English language. One of the most compelling books I've read, primarily for the vocabulary gymnastics. I was sent to my dictionary more than once. However, the plot line of this mystery is secondary to the breadth of Carter's knowledge of human nature. I also take exception to so many evidentiary holes in the mystery that are explained later -- getting the answer before we even know the reason for the question.
Author Carter's sometimes unreliable fir
Lauren Cecile
Mar 17, 2016 Lauren Cecile rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love big books and big ideas. I enjoyed reading this but was a little disappointed that the privileged African-Americans were just a description of the characters because their class and race were, for the most part, inconsequential to the story. They could have been Irish, French, middle class, etc. Good story, with numerous threads that were sometimes difficult to follow, but I just expected more about this particular demographic. Also well-written.
Apr 13, 2009 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What's funny is that the very reason I loved this book so much at first is the reason I sort of was bored at the end -- the mystery is almost secondary to the the characters and relationships in the book. A number of the reviews have said the book was slow, but for the first 3/4 of the book, that didn't bother me at all. I actually liked how, instead of a real "who done it" mystery, Carter just really set up a great cast of characters, and only slowly set out even hints that there was a murder. ...more
Jan 07, 2008 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For almost a week Bob and I didn't talk to each other much. That's because he had his nose in this 800+ page book for the first part of the week, and I had mine in it for the second part. Unlike legal thrillers penned by other legally trained writers (e.g. Grisham, Turow, and Baldacci), this book is not one dimensional. It is complex, and the language is rich. It is a window into the world of affluent/well-educated members of the "darker nation" and the book unfolds like layers being peeled away ...more
Mar 27, 2016 Kye rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book!!
Todd Huish
Jul 27, 2008 Todd Huish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: grisham fans, lovers of mystery/thrillers
Recommended to Todd by: NPR
I don't know what it is about lawyers writing complicated thrillers but, evidently, they're pretty good at it. I think Grisham is the one everyone knows but after reading "The Emporer of Ocean Park" I say there's a new gun in town and his name is Stephen L. Carter.

I heard about this book on NPR during its media blitz and his interview was sufficiently interesting enough to get me to try it out. A lot of books I get from NPR aren't always the most riveting or nearly as interesting as they first
Apr 02, 2008 Gigi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: suspense-mystery
A father dies and his son must figure out what secrets he has left behind. Others also want to know what the "arrangements" are and so begins the book. I tend to not read a lot of suspense books but I enjoyed this one. There are times where the side stories take a little too much ink but I feel that many of the side stories added to the depth of the story so you never knew which people or bits of information were important to the main plot and which supported the subplots. I also liked how the m ...more
Michael David Cobb
The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter. is a quite compelling if not evenly flowing or artistic read. It's an ambitious book that works on many different levels. As a first time novelist, Carter should have stuck to one or two, but in the end you are glad that he didn't.[return][return]As a thriller, it bites you slo-o-o-wly. I get the feeling that if Carter weren't so interested in putting us in his protagonist's stubborn and provincial shoes, we might figure out exactly what is going t ...more
The Emperor of Ocean Park, which dedicates quite a number of pages to the game of chess its narrator loves, is itself a sort of chess match. Author Carter runs multiple sophisticated plots concurrently through the story, making Emperor a novel of academia, of racial and professional politics (here often identically aimed), a straight-up legal thriller, and a story of an already disintegrating family coping with the loss of its domineering patriarch – all of which somehow meld into a coherent and ...more
Dec 01, 2008 Naomi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Carter is a good writer in the sense that he puts words and sentences together in a way that is mostly enjoyable to read (although he tends to over-use certain pat phrases -- his use of "darker nation" and "paler nation" was ok once or twice but tiresome after a while.) But at the end of the day, the plot, although complex and fairly engaging while you are reading it, has MAJOR holes in it. The most glaring hole is that if you actually ponder the motive of the person who turns out to have done i ...more
Jason Haynes
Sep 10, 2012 Jason Haynes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was a good, fun read. Carter enjoys playing the mystery writer and he is at his best in this novel. None of his subsequent works quite reach the craft practiced here. For that and his description of the elites of Black America, this novel is a terrific read.
Bryan R.
This is one of the best books I ever read. It is part thriller, part peak into black Martha's Vineyard, part academia. So many interesting twists and characters.
Mar 19, 2008 William rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Hated it..Soap opera from a conservative Yale professor..please..needs to stick to his day job.
Mar 13, 2010 Nancy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nancy by: Lisa
Shelves: mystery
This is the best mystery I have read in a long, long time and wonder where I was when it first came out.
Stephen Carter writes extremely well and creates fleshy characters with class and depth. His plot is rich with revelations and twists and the pace is good. It is also a thoughtful, sensitive novel which allows its major players to interact in intelligent ways.
Talcott Garland is a law professor at an unnamed Ivy League law school and is married to Kimberly, a lawyer in the running for a posi
Sep 06, 2007 Shayla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
OK, so I finally finished the book and I really liked it! In addition to the use of the terms "darker nation" and "paler nation", which I thought was a simple but wonderful way to distinguish the races (I tire of having to say black and white), the writing was really quite good. This was not a short novel, so Carter had enough pages to develop the characters and I'm glad that he did. I came to understand, though not always like, the whole Garland clan and their actions, even little Bentley. Thos ...more
Mar 23, 2016 Yhana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If not for the annoying protagonist, Misha, I probably would've rated this book four stars. It's a long read with a faster pace towards the middle of the book, including cliffhanger-like chapter endings which make you want to continue reading. But the plot is, in my view, unnecessarily complicated with a letdown of an ending. Carter (the author) includes several subplots, which attempt to loan Misha more character development, but even those became uninteresting after so many hundreds of pages. ...more
This was entertaining. Talcott defintely became a character for whom one can sympathize, from his failing marriage with Kimmer, to his heart rending tenderness toward his son, to his anguish over the mysterious and dangerous legacy his father has haunted him. I found the chess descriptions and the circle of law a bit dry. I do have a rudimentary knowledge of chess - but the description of "double excelsior" left me scratching my head. And being a former litigation attorney and UGH! law student, ...more
May 18, 2013 Constance rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really tried to power through this book, but it was so, so, so overwritten. Although, what else can you expect from a lawyer - a law professor lawyer, no less. Lawyers: please stop writing wordy books describing the same thing in three different ways in every sentence. Not every clever description or turn of phrase that you think of needs to make it into your book, okay?
Cynthia Marie
Jul 04, 2016 Cynthia Marie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I first read this fantastic novel in 2002 and it was one of the best novels I'd read in a long time. It is still one of my favorites. I am re-reading it again. Still as brilliant as the first time.
Jasmine Harris
Dec 15, 2009 Jasmine Harris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I first picked up The Emperor of Ocean Park I was in high school and I saw it on an episode of Girlfriends. Talking about the influence television has on a person. I so wanted to be Joan, reading super sophisticated books and such. So I made up in my mind that I would seek this book out.

One day at work, I've been in the library system for 10 years, I found a copy on our sale shelf. I was ecstatic! I paid the $0.10 for it, took it home and committed myself to the first page. And what a comm
Ruth Booth
I am feeling a little uncertain on how to review this book.
It's by an American author and its set in a world so far removed from mine I have had problems connecting with the characters. The story revolves around a black (or members of the darker nation as the author likes to refer) law professor and his wealthy family. Now I have read books set in much more unrelatable back drops than this one, but the author (a black academic) seems to assume that the reader can relate to the environment and s
Dec 15, 2007 Johnsergeant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, audiblecom
Downloaded from

Narrator: Peter Francis James
Publisher: Random House Audio, 2002
Length: 6 hours and 6 min. (abridged)

Publisher's Summary
An extraordinary fiction debut: a large, stirring novel of suspense that is, at the same time, a work of brilliantly astute social observation. The Emperor of Ocean Park is set in two privileged worlds: the upper crust African American society of the eastern seaboard - old families who summer on Martha's Vineyard - and the inner circle of an Ivy Leagu
Dennis D.
"Emperor" is Stephen L. Carter’s first novel. Carter is a Yale law professor who has written non-fiction books in the past, and who also writes editorial columns that occasionally pop up on the Cincinnati Enquirer's opinion pages.

The protagonist of the story is Talcott Garland, a law professor whose father has just passed away. His father, "The Judge," as he was known, was a federal judge and a failed Supreme Court nominee, and their recent relationship was strained. The Judge leaves behind cryp
Jan 03, 2011 Cori rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was too long. 672 pages for a legal thriller? Come on. It could have been cut and parsed down to a good 400 pages and been a much better book. Instead, it felt like a slog. I picked up the book while visiting my friend Noelle during the 4th of July weekend. I finished it at the end of November. That ain’t right. I never sucked me in like a good book should.

I liked the mystery in and of itself. I thought it was intriguing and I really wanted Garland to figure out what “the arrangements”
Jan 14, 2009 Cynthia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was pretty disappointed with this book. The story begins with the unexpected death of a father/judge. The family hasn't been particularly close in years but the daughter and son, Talcott begin to believe through a series of bizarre incidents that their father was murdered. Their father left Talcott with a series of clues to find out what the "arrangements" were. And good and bad people are coming after Talcott to find out what the arrangements are as well.

The plot sounded intriguing enough but
Nov 15, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book! It got alot of hype because it is a legal thriller/mystery in the style of John Grisham, but the author and main characters are African American. The book is pretty long - 800+, pages but they all help unravel the complex plot. One of the most interesting characters is the pastor who councels the main character. I don't know if it was done on purpose, but that character seemed to be offering representing absolute truth to the main character who was sifting through a p ...more
May 19, 2015 PoligirlReads rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is very, very good. I remember reading a review about in a Newsweek magazine several years ago and thinking, "I should give that book a try." Alas, it was before I found GoodReads, and I forgot about it. Until now.

Anyway, on to the book. It's lengthy, but it never feels bogged down. The writing is fantastic. He drops enough hints along the way to keep you intrigued. Misha is a very realistic character, and a reliable narrator. The secondary characters are believable as well. Also very belie
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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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