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09 March 2014

Richard North Patterson: Fall from Grace

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A tangled web of family lies, deceit and hatred
Richard North Patterson, who has long been one of my favourite authors, starts a very different psychological family trilogy with "Fall from Grace" about the family of Ben Blaine and the impact of his death/apparent murder when he falls from a cliff on Martha's Vineyard.

Ben's son Adam Blaine returns to the Vineyard to attend the funeral of his estranged father and immediately gets involved discovering buried family secrets, some of which will become public as the police investigate the circumstances of Ben's death. The only thing that is definite is that, despite his hatred of his father, Adam was on CIA duty in Afghanistan when Ben's death occurred.

Ben Blaine was a world renowned writer whose narcissistic personality gave him a ruthless drive to succeed no matter what damage might happen to those around him, especially his family. Ben loved the best things in life and was a serial womaniser who had little respect for his wife, Clarice who had brought him entry into the wealthy Vineyard society from the wrong side of the tracks. Ben's last fling was with Carla Pacelli, a failed popular actress recovering from alcohol and drug abuse.

Adam works to protect his mother, Uncle Jack, and gay brother Teddy from the fallout of Ben's death because all of them had a great hatred of Ben. Any of them could have been involved as an unbelievable bounty of buried secrets are unearthed thick and fast - not the least being that Ben was in the last stages of inoperable brain cancer and Carla was expecting his child. As Adam gets closer to Carla he starts to question everything about his family and his world starts to disintegrate.

The only thing that Adam tries to protect is the reason for his estrangement with Ben which made him leave the Vineyard ten years ago.

The whole plot has a ring of an unbelievable family soap opera and it is only Patterson's skills as an author that held my attention. Adam is the only well developed character, the family members are mainly on the sidelines and we only get to know Ben through the many, mostly terrible, things that he did during his life.

With most trilogies it is normally best to start at the beginning. With this one I accidentally started with the second in the trilogy  "Loss of Innocence" which is a far better book which can be read in standalone mode. That book mostly covers the time before Ben becomes famous and before he marries Clarice. It also tells us a lot more (sometimes pretty favourable) things about Ben's character, and his drive to leave behind a family background of poor abusive and alcoholic parents. That book, set at the time of the Vietnam war, also also focuses the intolerant attitudes of the wealthy conservative residents of the Vineyard to someone who does not have their family background or views. All in all I am glad  that I read #2 first as it gave me more information about Ben that helped me understand the first book a lot better. The last book, "Eden in Winter" starts off where #1 ends and follows the saga through to the bitter end.

This is one of the strangest trilogies I have reviewed because I really loved the second book but found the other ones somewhat lacking.

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