‘The Darlings’ by Cristina Alger

I was totally wooed by the cover of The Darlings, the debut novel by lawyer-turned-author, Cristina Alger – refined, cool New York at its very best.

The Darlings is described as a ‘sophisticated page-turner’ – a new genre perhaps? It could also be described as a financial thriller, although that doesn’t do much to sell the book, does it?! It’s much more glamorous than that.

The story is about a wealthy New York family, the Darlings, who are embroiled in a financial scandal with enormous consequences. The story is told from various points-of-view, including billionaire financier and patriarch, Carter Darling, his daughter, Merrill and his son-in-law, Paul Ross. Since joining the Darling family, Paul has grown accustomed to New York society and all of its luxuries: a Park Avenue apartment, weekends in the Hamptons, bespoke suits. But a tragic event catapults the family into the legal and media spotlight and suddenly Paul must decide where his loyalties lie – will he save himself while betraying his wife and in-laws or protect the family business at all costs?

“Paul firmly believed, or he had up until then, that the only way to be a part of a family as powerful as the Darlings was never to take anything from them. Otherwise, they owned you.”

From the first page, which is the scene of a suicide attempt from an unknown character, The Darlings reels you in. It’s fast-paced and each chapter title is a date and time over the span of the Thanksgiving weekend – it gives the reader a sense of urgency, as the events of the weekend quickly (and uncontrollably) unfold.

Alger leaves readers dangling on a number of plot points – who committed suicide? Who is he having an affair with? Is there a snitch? The answers are revealed gradually, and as they are, the broader implications become clear.

The story is supposedly based on the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme – I suppose if you lived in the US and paid close attention to the financial news, you would be thoroughly familiar with the details of the Madoff case. I didn’t know anything about it and so Alger’s plot was totally new to me.

I really liked Alger’s use of detail – there was enough in there about New York, society and the world of finance, law and the media to set the scene without it feeling as if the author was ‘name-dropping’ or padding out scenes to give the story authenticity. In fact, it was so well done that those close to Alger, or those that have worked with her, might just feel a prickle of anxiety reading The Darlings – are any of the characters based on them?!

“The clientele was mostly neighborhood types: older women with shellacked hair and suspended eyebrows, bankers who needed a scotch before going home to the kids.”

“Father and son-in-law stood together in comfortable, familiar awkwardness.”

Overall, this is a quick and satisfying read. There are enough twists to keep you guessing until the end and even then, you might still be guessing!

The Darlings is set over the Thanksgiving weekend so naturally, must be taken with traditional Thanksgiving delights – pumpkin pie and pecan pie.

4/5 I don’t read many thrillers – although this book doesn’t fall strictly into this category, it was a change of pace for me and as such, I really enjoyed it.

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