Chuckell's Reviews > The Emperor of Ocean Park

The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter
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's review
Apr 17, 12

Read in April, 2012

Wow, this book is seriously horrible. I guess it is supposed to be, like, the African-American Presumed Innocent but it is really not. Like, not even close.

Absurdly long and epically boring, it's the kind of mystery where the plot only proceeds--inasmuch as it does proceed, which is only a little, and sooooo sloooooowly--because the main character is a moron who refuses to see the obvious truth, that he's caught up in something dangerous. He's always thinking things along the lines of "Wow, when two people close to me got killed in mysterious circumstances, I began to wonder if there was a plot afoot! But then a third guy got killed, and I realized that was so farfetched that the deaths couldn't be anything but a terrible, terrible coincidence! So I went on about my business."

But while the plot is spectacularly tedious, the writing is painfully orotund--no one ever walks anywhere, they amble and trundle and lurch; they don't visit but sojourn and "withdraw to some hidden refuge." It's populated by characters with ridiculous names like Theophilus Mountain and Lemaster Carlyle and Mallory Corcoran, though for all the pomposity of their names are thinly drawn and impossible to keep straight. Our hero, the narrator, Talcott "Mischa" Garland, is married to a beauty who goes by the name "Kimmer." Yes, we poor readers are expected to believe that there could possibly exist, somewhere in the world, a black woman who would consent to be referred to as Kimmer. Kimmer. A name any Main Line debutante descended from the Mayflower would consider too preppy. And they have a son named Bentley, for fuck's sake.

And the plot, such as it is--well, it hardly bears explaining. A disgraced judge dies and leaves behind some sort of document or package involving mysterious "arrangements" that the narrator, his son, has to try and find. In the end he finds the arrangements, by the way, on a floppy disk hidden inside a stuffed bear in the attic of the family summer house. Oh, sorry, spoiler alert! No, on second thought, I did you a favor--you really don't want to read this book. It takes this clown 800 pages to figure out that the secret thing his father left behind was stashed in the attic. Oh, of course some other stuff happens--he encounters some shadowy underworld figures, he is tailed by a beautiful agent of some sort, he gets beaten up and shot and arrested. He also spends pages and pages agonizing over the state of his marriage and his career, as if anyone could possibly care. He visits with his friends, the Browns, who come to town from Ohio for a week--they call it "the Brown Week," and there's a whole chapter devoted to the visit. I believe that from now on, before I start a book, I'm going to flip through and make sure that there are no chapters called "The Brown Week."

Horrible bad terrible book.


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