A sort of transatlantic Dallas, in which Caplan (Parallelogram, 1987, etc.) portrays a sophisticated young American who climbs high enough on the social ladder to see just how foolish he's been. John Brooks, the son of a prominent Washington journalist, has made his way through all the right schools and a stint in Vietnam to land in Hong Kong as a merchant banker. Hired away by a rival firm, John then moves to London and eventually marries Julia Cheviot, daughter of the Marquess of Castlemorland. One of the richest estates in England, Castlemoreland comes complete with stately home, farms, and parklands. John, meanwhile, is working with Julia's brother Rupert on a big deal that he expects will make them very rich indeed once it goes through. But suspicions begin to creep in. A snatch of conversation overheard during the night leads John to believe that Julia and Rupert share some secret, and John's unsuccessful attempts to get at the truth directly—this is England, after all—make him wonder what he might have gotten into. Some very complicated banking arrangements take John first to Zurich, then to Liechtenstein, and on his return he finds his wife and children gone and no one willing to give him a straightforward explanation for their disappearance. Is Julia having an affair? Has John been set up by Rupert? Just how suspicious were the suspicious circumstances of a friend's death? What exactly is this videotape that Julia wants to get back? And why do the English always snicker at these little private jokes that no American can ever get? By the time John realizes how far he's into the labyrinth, the reader has begun to despair of his ever making it out again alive. A trifle precious overall: Far too much time is spent setting up an essentially simple story with little to distinguish it. Could have been told just as intelligibly in half the pages—and more enjoyably in a quarter.
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