Dennis D.'s Reviews > The Emperor of Ocean Park

The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter
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Dec 07, 2008

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Read in January, 2004

"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 cryptic, posthumous instructions that lead Garland to begin investigating his father, his father’s life, and some of the unsavory characters that may have helped him to advance as far as he did. It’s these same associations that scuttled The Judge’s Supreme Court nom, a disgrace from which he never fully recovered. Now Garland, driven by both guilt and curiosity, is stirring up old (and not-so-old) ghosts, and is further conflicted because the fallout from his investigation is negatively impacting his wife’s political career.

Overall, I found this book to be entertaining, and fairly well written. It could have used some editing; at 675 pages, it was probably 100-150 pages too long. And there were a couple of subplots that needed to be cleaned up or excised entirely. I don’t want to give spoilers, but one of the subplots is entirely unrealistic (with characters doing things that no person in real life would ever do), while another is brought up, but then never resolved. I’d be a little more critical if this weren’t a debut novel, and if the story in general weren’t as good.
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