From Publishers Weekly
For every striver who claws his way to the top of the moneyed heap, another must fall from grace to make room; in the work of late novelist and journalist Dunne (1925-2009), those falls are usually preceded by a vigorous shove. In his final novel, the players include grande dame Lil Altemus, banking heiress (and suspected murderess) Perla Zacharias, and flight attendant-turned-jetsetter Ruby Renthal, alongside journalist Gus Bailey (Dunne's minimally-fictionalized surrogate). A sequel to 1988's People Like Us based on Dunne's real-life experiences as a society crime writer, Dunne brings an expected level of intimacy to his unflattering look at New York's wealthiest citizens, incorporating his own spectacular Hollywood fall from grace and subsequent comeback, as well as his legal standoff with a congressman whom Dunne implicated in the disappearance of intern Chandra Levy. A fitting cap to Dunne's notable career, this novel is more parody than satire-populated by jeer-worthy caricatures hard to sympathize with-but proves to be a compulsively readable diversion, showcasing Dunne's razor wit and furious disdain for those who believe that laws apply to everyone but themselves.
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Readers mourned Dunne’s passing in August 2009, bereft at the thought of life without his keen novels and incisive Vanity Fair profiles of the rich and shameless. But Dunne grants us one more good read (which he would have greatly refined), a shrewd comedy of Manhattan’s elite in the time of Bernie Madoff. As a farewell gesture, Dunne bestows his own traits, trials, and tribulations on Gus Bailey, who is privy to the juiciest gossip and writes about the megarich gone wild for a posh magazine and in risky romans à clef. But now his career is in jeopardy. How could he have fallen for that bogus story about a California congressman and his missing intern? And how far will the ferocious Perla Zacharias go to stop his novel about the suspicious death of her husband? This is a scathing critique of excess and insularity to decode and delight in, what with ruthless Ruby, the wife of an incarcerated financier; a Brooke Astor variation; “extra” men who escort women with “too much money” and too little love; and a hilarious scene involving pearls and pea soup. But Dunne’s glittering high-society satire harbors sorrow at its heart as Dunne’s burdened hero ponders his secrets and regrets. --Donna Seaman
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