In Williams’ novel, a butler recounts the jealousy, drama and poisoning in the home of his Hamptons employer.
In his first novel, based on true events, Williams describes his turn as house manager for wealthy Mr. Farber and his much-younger second wife, Mrs. Elena Farber. Williams trained at a well-respected butler school, but nothing would prepare him for the mystery, intrigue, jealousy and attempted murder that occur in the Hamptons mansion of his employers. Williams must navigate the tension-filled relationship between the Farbers as well as gain the trust of the staff. Not long after Williams begins working for the family and is finally managing the lavish social calendar and quirks of his employers, the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Farber starts to deteriorate, and Williams is caught in the middle. Things come to a head when someone gives the couple poisoned cognac. The investigation yields no leads despite the many suspects. Williams reveals the poisoning early in the narrative, describing the suspects and then retracing the events leading to the attempted murder. The novel builds tension throughout, but the ending is as decidedly anticlimactic as in real life; however, Williams’ insight into the lives of the wealthy and those who serve them intrigues. He imparts household knowledge (“silverware” is reserved for real silver utensils while “flatware” refers to stainless steel) and illustrates the lack of privacy for the rich: “The thing is, as house staff we see, hear, and feel all the emotions going on in the house each and every day, which affects all of us here and the work we need to get done.”
A butler’s fictionalized account of the unhappiness in a Hamptons household and the true heart of the mansion—the staff.