Was it an accident? Was it suicide? Was it murder? These are the questions at the center of FALL FROM GRACE by Richard North Patterson. Ben Blaine is found dead at the bottom of a local Martha’s Vineyard promontory, but no sign of how he got there is to be found at the site. Ben was a world-famous journalist and author whose reputation for his fierce bravado followed him everywhere he went. He was one of those men who was bigger than life and treated the world as his own fiefdom. He took what he wanted and threw it away when he was no longer entertained by it. This included the many women he chose to bed despite his 40-year marriage to Clarice.
"Richard North Patterson fans will be mesmerized by FALL FROM GRACE and all of its tricky intricacies. Newcomers will be thrilled that they have been introduced to a writer who has a whole host of books for them to read."
The family further consisted of the Blaine sons, Adam and Terry, and Uncle Jack. Ben had bought Clarice’s father’s family manse when he went bankrupt, and she lived with him quietly in the shadows. Ben also made Clarice sign a postnup that essentially would leave her penniless if her husband so chose. And it turned out he did. Ben hated Uncle Jack because he saw him as a loser; he hated Terry, who was gay, a painter, and lived on the property; and Ben was always trying to outdo Adam, the only one in the family line with the same fighting spirit as his father.
As the saga begins, Adam returns to the Vineyard for his estranged father’s funeral. He had not had any contact with the man for 10 years. When he left, he ended up in Afghanistan working as a consultant to the people who wanted to grow crops other than poppies. At least this is the story he told his family and others. Readers immediately get a sense that Adam is doing something very different in that war-torn country, but have to traverse twists in the plot to find out the truth.
Two other women are central to the narrative. Jenny Leigh, Adam’s old girlfriend and lover, is an aspiring writer who tried to commit suicide when Adam left the island. She was saved, nursed and nurtured by Adam’s mother, Clarice. The two became like mother and daughter. The other woman is gorgeous former model Carla, Ben’s latest paramour. As it happens, just before his sudden death, Ben found out that he had a malignant brain tumor and decided that he wanted to spend his last days with this young woman. With this in mind, the police wonder if he would have committed suicide or had been so careless as to have been so close to the precipice as to somehow tumble over. If neither of these events took place, only one reason for his death remained: murder! But who did it? And why?
As the plot moves apace, readers learn more and more about these people, their strange rituals and relationships. Adam takes on the role of detective and uses all of the clandestine moves he has learned working for the government. He manages to get his hands on the police reports, the coroner’s report, and all other information he wants. He haunts the island and leaves no stone unturned in trying to clear his family of any responsibility in Ben’s death.
When Ben wrote Clarice and Teddy out of his will, he left the largesse to Clara and one million dollars to Jenny. To Adam he left $100,000, the role of his executor and a photo album. For the life of him, Adam can’t understand what this album is supposed to mean to him. It consists of old pictures of his derring-do father in Vietnam. Some of them are dated, others are not. Adam doesn’t recognize any of the men posing with his father and is just stymied --- until he takes one more look and notices something on the page. There it is: the dark and ugly secret that corroded the relationships that comprised the Blaine family.
The pain of enlightenment sears Adam to the bone. But although he is almost ready to leave all of this behind, he must be sure that his family is taken care of both financially and with the law. With help from two old family friends --- a lawyer and a psychiatrist --- Adam finds a way through the fragile information he now has.
Richard North Patterson fans will be mesmerized by FALL FROM GRACE and all of its tricky intricacies. Newcomers will be thrilled that they have been introduced to a writer who has a whole host of books for them to read.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on March 29, 2012