Itís all here Ė murder; drama; the excesses of the rich on the Gold Coast on the North Shore of Long Islandís Nassau County; beautiful, dangerous women, an ex-husband who still carries the torch; and a Mafia don who is a caricature of Tony Sopranoís nephew. DeMille writes with a grand sweep, and quasi-serious tone, ploughing the ground of the ever-fascinating rich and famous, albeit somewhat tarnished by 9/11, war and imploding world events.
John Sutter, former husband of Susan Stanhope Sutter, has returned after years of wandering on a luxury yacht with few material goods but lots of memories, currently ruminating on the demise of his marriage. Sutter is staying in the putative Gatehouse of the title while the family retainer given residence for life inches toward death in a nearby hospital. Renting a room from this elderly woman, Sutter has kept his marital artifacts at the Gatehouse, indecisive as to plans post-mortem.
Before long, Sutter learns that his ex, Susan, has cunningly purchased the Stanhope guesthouse and surrounding acreage, now living within walking distance of John. The marriage went aground when Susan shot and killed her lover, Frank Bellarosa, who had purchased the rambling Stanhope estate from her father. Somehow Susan avoided the justice system, but her exploits shocked society and sold newspapers until the next scandal claimed the publicís interest.
Now, ten years later, Sutter remains haunted (obsessed?) with his still-beautiful wife. Although Iranian expatriate Amir Nasim now owns the Stanhope estate, removing the naked statues that Bellarosa relished, the donís son and heir to the crime family resides in a nearby upscale subdivision modeled on the estate. This Bellarosa, Anthony, has revenge on his mind. He intrudes on Sutterís pleasant thoughts, pushing for a business relationship that smells like trouble to a man who has already been burned by Anthonyís father, so to speak.
DeMille attempts the traditional sweeping novel, the ultimate insiderís peek behind the scenes of wealth and privilege, in this case a little worse the wear from attrition and new venues for financial success, like expatriate wealth and criminal enterprise. Often tongue-in-cheek, Sutterís musings get stale quickly, Susan apparently eternally young and desirable, perhaps a mature manís musings on years past.
Anthony Bellarosa borders on the absurd, waffling between gansta and intelligence beyond his thuggish heritage, Amir Nasim very politically correct and the inharmonious lovers certainly destined to reunite. I am reminded of Harold Robbinsí generation of writers, a master of the genre in his time, although DeMille has not Robbinsí gift of savage irony. It occurs to me that perhaps this type of novel has reached its expiration date, the gold plate just a bit tarnished by a much-changed world.