The Darlings
Cristina Alger
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Buy *The Darlings* by Cristina Alger online

The Darlings
Cristina Alger
Pamela Dorman Books
352 pages
February 2012
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Alger draws on her own experience as Wall Street insider to exhort a precise and intimate family saga of grand proportions, albeit one that is tied to elements of a Greek tragedy. As fraud suddenly ripples outwards, the carefully constructed life of the Darling family, led by stern-faced billionaire investor Carter Darling, threatens to collapse under the weight of volatile allegations.

Gaining her inspiration from the crash of 2008, Alger posits a map of a family who through hard work and sacrifice have been triumphant in their rise. Yet the market collapse comes at a bad time for Carter: just before Thanksgiving, the sudden suicide of reclusive Morty Reis threatens to derail the manís powerful and lucrative dynasty. There are revelations that Morty had been operating a Ponzi scheme, a multibillion-dollar fraud, and linking it to a fund that Carterís company was heavily invested in. No one knows exactly what Morty had been hiding, but with him dead the spotlight shifts to Carter and what he did or did not know.

In this world, corruption is framed around the aspirations of Carterís daughters: beautiful Lily and talented Merrill, and their husbands, Adrian and Paul. It is Paul who finds himself most at cross-purposes with his father-in-law as they stand together in ďa comfortable and familiar awkwardness.Ē The story plays out amid lives characterized by misplaced hopes. Carterís brittle wife, Inez, adds yet another mound of pampered indulgence to the proceedings.

Why would a successful hedge fund manager with a beautiful wife and four houses jump off the Tappan Zee Bridge the day before Thanksgiving? As the investigation into Mortyís shady dealings unfold, the Darlings' business and personal associations become vital to understanding this world of bullpen computers and sparkling conference rooms where financial brokers revel in their red power ties and pinstriped suits.

Emphasizing the thoughts of each character, the author reveals them as complex and flawed individuals with his or her own unique motivations. Shepherding us into the private lives of a wide variety of stakeholders--from journalists to SEC managers to secretaries and to shady lawyers--Alger enables us to make our own judgments about who might gain or lose our sympathies.

Reveling in Americaís twisted glory, this tale is chiefly a compendium of unbridled wealth run amok. Alger does a fine job of presenting her family, archetypes of class and privilege, as honored blue-blood New England stock. Well-educated and well-bred, they have access to all kinds of resources most canít even begin to imagine: the billion dollar private equity investments with half-million buy-ins, the money managers, tax attorneys, and estate planning advisers.

Itís easy to see how so many in America feel they have been duped by Wall Street and how families like the Darlings have done their part to usurp the power of the middle class. A subtle look at the price of wealth, Algerís book reminds us that no one, not even the honorable Carter, is exempt from the tendrils of vice and corruption.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2012

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