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

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  4,582 ratings  ·  705 reviews
"Forget fiction. Pop this jaw-dropper in your beach bag." --"USA Today "
This shocking expose goes behind the headlines to uncover the true story of Clark Rockefeller, wealthy scion of a great American family, who kidnapped his own daughter and vanished. The police and FBI were baffled. Tips poured in, but every lead was a dead end ... because "Clark Rockefeller" did not e
ebook, 336 pages
Published June 1st 2011 by Plume Books
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3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,582 ratings  ·  705 reviews

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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
Saleh MoonWalker
Onvan : The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Impostor - Nevisande : Mark Seal - ISBN : 670022748 - ISBN13 : 9780670022748 - Dar 323 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2011
Jun 23, 2011 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 15, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jill Hutchinson
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
In 1978, a 17 year old German youth named Christian Gerhartsreiter left his home for the United States and became, over the years, one of the great con men in history. He taught himself to speak English with an accent that appeared to be Ivy League/Bostonian and begin assuming false identities to suit his purposes. He stepped in and out of identities for years and completely fooled everyone with whom he came in contact. But his most successful con was when he decided to become a Rockefeller and ...more
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.
Jan 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
The Pfaeffle Journal (Diane)
Dec 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Reading Walter Kirn's Blood Will Out made me curious about you get from German immigrant to passing yourself off as a Rockefeller. Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter pulled off one of the most audacious cons in recent history.

This is one of the those you can't make this stuff up books, Mark Seal follows Gerhartsreiter from the moment he first steps on American soil until his arrest and trial for kidnapping his seven-year old daughter. It is an interesting but creepy tale. I would find keeping up thi
Mar 16, 2013 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
Nov 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 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 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.
Mar 18, 2014 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
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-read-harder
#2 on Read Harder
This review is for both The Man in the Rockefeller Suit, by Mark Seal, and Blood Will Out, by Walter Kirn.

I strongly recommend that these two books are read together. Despite ostensibly sharing a single topic, they have very little overlap in specifics. And both are well written, focused, interesting.

I recommend that you first read The Man in the Rockefeller Suit. It is a thorough investigative report into “Clark” from childhood in Germany up through the first trial for kidnappi
Jan 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
This book, which is very journalistic (or maybe academic) in terms of setting forth everything the author has ever found out about the subject, is the story of a con man who took advantage of a lot of people and spent everyone else's money in the course of that. It gets kind of depressing to read about someone so deceitful and narcissistic, and the way he zeroed in on vulnerable people and how readily they fell for his ruses. It's kind of satisfying to see him get his comeuppance, although the b ...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
Jul 28, 2011 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
Chris Lemery
Jul 29, 2012 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
Jan 21, 2012 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
Sep 14, 2011 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
Jun 11, 2012 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
Matt Walker
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
John Pappas
Apr 20, 2013 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
Jennifer Hughes
Mar 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nostrano
How can someone exist in America now, mixing with the upper echelons of society without having any kind of official identity--no driver license or SSN, never paying taxes, married without a marriage license? "Clark Rockefeller" found that the bigger the lie, the easier it was to pull it off. His story reminded me of the way the main character in the TV show "White Collar" gets away with practically everything but murder, but because he dresses and acts impeccably, people believe the image he pre ...more
Jun 24, 2011 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
Sep 09, 2011 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
This book followed a very familiar pattern:

Our subject goes to a new place with a new identity, lies about his background and sponges off people. When people get annoyed with his pompous attitude and asks too many questions, he moves to a new place. Lather, rinse, repeat.

While one can appreciate the research of the author, the details become extraneous. Worse, the murder is barely mentioned in this book...almost as a footnote.

Perhaps this book was written too early. I wanted to know more about t
Jan 26, 2012 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
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
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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.