Fine art, fine wine, and old money collide with forgery and extortion in Zurich.
It's clear at the outset that Adrian Weynfeldt, the novel’s protagonist, is a dying breed. He comes from old money and makes a habit of standing on ceremony, literally standing and buttoning his jacket, for example, each time a woman enters the room. Weynfeldt likes nice things and so he buys nice things, and that might be the end of his character were it not for his keen awareness of himself. He is isolated and constantly mindful that his wealth creates a divide between himself and his friends. His depression and anxieties are subtly wrought and feel painfully inescapable. The same subtlety cannot, unfortunately, be said for most of the other characters in this novel, and there are many. In fact, nouns abound. We are asked to remember the names of Weynfeldt’s older friends, his employees, family friends, younger friends, tailors, and potential love interest. Not all of them are completely necessary to the novel’s main story, though, so if you do forget one or two you can still muddle your way through the central action. Interspersed with the names are the objects that populate Weynfeldt’s life: the Swiss furniture, the designer clothes, the expensive wine. The main action of the novel, when we reach it at last, has to do with art forgery and a woman who alternates between the femme fatale and the damsel in distress, without much nuance. It’s entertaining, if also predictable. Characters behave the way you expect them to, and there’s never a sense that Weynfeldt, with his art collection and sizable inheritance, is ever in any real danger.
Although enjoyable, Weynfeldt’s story doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression, for better or worse.