"This sprawling family blood feud suffers from an abundance of improbable plot twists and contrivances."– Kirkus Reviews
Lehman’s debut novel introduces the Grants, a powerful Florida family whose superwealthy members are out for one another’s blood and money.
Stuart Grant, an office supply magnate, has a new trophy wife and is nefariously attempting to wrest total control of the family’s millions from his late brother’s family. So what if it violates the oath he and his brother swore in front of their mother years ago. Although his mother is still alive, and there is plenty of paperwork to back up the claim that the assets must be shared, Stuart will stop at nothing to steal from his brother’s widow and her children. Stuart has no positive qualities and extremely poor judgment. He recently married Eva, a master of artifice who, while lusting after other men, wants him only for his money. She becomes obsessed with Stuart’s handsome nephew, Michael, who is inconveniently smitten with Eva’s daughter, an intelligent, sincere woman completely unlike her mother. Stuart has also disowned his own son, William, because of William’s choice of life partner. Stuart’s secret plan is to expeditiously sell his company to a giant global office supply concern for nearly $2 billion, a deal necessitating both the destruction of all documents attesting to the ownership of stock by other family members and the falsifying of new documents naming him the sole owner. Increasingly desperate to stop his family from discovering his scheme, Stuart is forced to engage the services of hit men and women, leading to some very dire consequences. Most of the action takes place in the homes and grounds of the fabulously wealthy on their private island. This peek behind the curtains offers a look at how the .01 percent lives, providing the book’s most colorful, enjoyable renderings. The characters, however, are often caricatures—the gold digger, the murderous thug, the star-crossed lovers, etc.—while the language, particularly relating to love and sex, can be awkwardly florid. Take, for instance, a romantic moment under the stars: “A full moon led the heavens in a symphony of light.” The race to stop the big deal from coming to fruition turns into a screwball comedy of sorts; there’s even a hint of the film Some Like It Hot, which seems wildly out of place.
This sprawling family blood feud suffers from an abundance of improbable plot twists and contrivances.
In Lehman’s (Sand Dollar Island, 2014, etc.) thriller, the paths of a disparate group of characters intersect in surprising ways.
In Indian River County, Florida, a tragedy unfolds: Theodore S. Fitzgerald collapses and dies after suffering a heart attack in the middle of enjoying an afternoon with his wife, Anna, and sons, Mark and Cort. Years later, a young woman, Fontaine “Taine” Nichols, is brutally raped in her Boca Raton hotel room by a dangerous, delusional man named Hack, who received the room key from Taine’s former boyfriend, Breeze Henderson. She survives but with severe physical and emotional wounds. Dr. Alexandra “Alex” Parker, a cosmetic and reconstructive surgeon, cares for Taine and becomes her loyal confidante. Alex, meanwhile, is romantically involved with Mark Fitzgerald, who’s now a local businessman facing steep financial losses. To stem this tide, Mark starts running drugs and laundering money for a Colombian cartel; his contact is a woman named Isabella Jorge, whose “stunning beauty [takes] his breath away.” His questionable actions soon put his life in grave danger. Meanwhile, Taine rebuilds her own life with the help of Mark’s friend Dusty Kahn, a movie producer, but her newfound sense of security is overshadowed by the fact that Hack is following her every move. Lehman’s intricate plot moves along at a quick, steady pace as the action moves from the streets of Boca Raton and Miami to those of the Bahamas and Colombia. At times, the narrative reads like two separate novels: one featuring Taine and Hack, and the other involving Mark and his illegal activities. The drug-cartel plotline is the stronger of the two; its action scenes are well-developed (“Panicked, the woman screamed and ran towards the shack. Before she made it through the doorway, a bullet hit her in the back”), and the parts set in Colombia add just the right amount of intensity. Lehman attempts to unite the storylines at the end with an improbable twist that’s not entirely successful. The novel might have also benefited from a stronger edit; at one point, for example, Bel Air, California, is referred to as “Belle Aire.”
A novel that’s buoyed by brisk pacing and exotic locales but hampered by unlikely plot turns.