DeMille's best--and wisest--so far: a fabulous mainstream entertainment that should be subtitled Variations on a Theme by F. Scott Fitzgerald Though DeMille (Word of Honor, 1985; The Charm School, 1988) reprises The Great Gatsby at almost three times Gatsby's length, and finally produces a novel less moving and high-flown than Gatsby, he nonetheless also models his characters more roundly, features a stronger plot--and offers an unputdownable read. It's filled with death, taxes, sex, the Mafia, and the very, very rich in the Long Island enclave called the ""Gold Coast""--that area where the Roosevelts (said ""Roozvelts"") and the Vanderbilts held court, and where the inbred manners are such that people are instantly bored by the mention of money (although business is all right). Into this golden oyster moves the biggest gangster in America, Frank Bellarosa, who buys the decaying Alhambra estate and restores it to overwhelmingly vulgar heights of excess: his pink marble ""palm court"" has dozens of brightly plumed tropical birds and is ""a cross between a public aviary in Rio de Janeiro and an upscale florist shop in a Florida mall."" Meanwhile, his next door-neighbor is snooty tax lawyer John Whitman Sutter, husband to the even snootier Susan Stanhope Sutter. Bellarosa invades their lives, partly to draw the impeccable Sutter into Frank's defense for his murder of a Colombian drug-dealer, and partly to get Susan into bed. DeMille enjoys spicing things up with kinky sex (all mild but out-of-character for John Sutter to narrate about Susan), a lead-pipe murder, and a Little Italy shooting. The best stuff is Sutter's legal maneuvers for Bellarosa and DeMille's familiarity with tax law. The climax shows us that the very rich--like Daisy Buchanan--can get away with murder. Does DeMille put all this together as an outsider pretending to be an insider? Perhaps--but one quickly surrenders to the sheer skill and lived-in quality of each page.