An Inconvenient Woman, by Dominick Dunne
(New York: Bantam Books, 1991 c1990)Summary:
"Wealth. Beverly Hills billionaire, banker, and art collector Jules Mendelson and his elegant, aristocratic wife, Pauline, reign as the king and queen of West Coast high society. From their lavish mountaintop estate they preside over intimate dinner parties for ambassadors and art dealers, business tycoons and film stars. But L.A.'s royal couple is about to be dethroned.
"Murder. He's a smooth dancer with Latin charm, a member of an old Spanish Land Grant family that helped found the city, and Pauline's good friend. But when Hector Paradiso dies under the most sordid and distasteful circumstances, it's Jules who takes charge -- and takes steps to make Hector's murder look like suicide.
"Justice. Philip Quennell isn't part of their world. A young writer new to L.A., he finds observing the lives of the rich and famous fascinating. Until he discovers that the wealthy live by a different set of rules, rules that say if you have enough cash and connections you can stop a murder investigation cold. Now Quennell vows to expose those who'd let a killer go free.
"Passion. Flo March is Jules's enchanting young mistress. But between pillow talk and her own unquenchable curiosity, this beautiful redhead knows far too much about Hector's death -- and Jules's life. Soon, as intrigue threatens Jules's marriage, business, and reputation, events conspire to make Flo An Inconvenient Woman."
"Later he was vilified and disgraced; Archbishop Cooning denounced him from the pulpit of Saint Vibiana's as a corruptor, and the archbishop's words spread throughout the land."
I certainly haven't given up on Rise and Shine; truth be told, it'll probably be the more satisfying of the two, though Inconvenient Woman does promise to be guilty, Klondike-in-the-freezer, glass-of-wine-on-the-coffee-table fun for a small town homebody on her own in the big city. But I'm still not fully Kindle-ized yet, and can't quite bring myself to lie in bed with an e-reader when I want to flip through a quick chapter or 2 before going to sleep. Ergo, I'm breaking out one of the paperbacks I've had stacked on my desk for a month or so (can you tell this was one of my 25-cent finds at the library book sale) for bedtime reading.
(tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock)
Sometimes you do get what you pay for. Inconvenient Woman wasn't bad enough for me not to finish -- it's the kind of fluffy, insubstantial thing that's perfect for reading at bedtime. The chapters are short enough that you can always make it through 1 or 2, the storyline doesn't require particularly close attention, and it's not compelling enough that you find yourself starting "just one more" chapter over and over till it's suddenly 2 am.
And that's about all I can say for it. Perhaps its a period piece, but it seems something that would have been dated even in the early 1990s (though I didn't exactly move in LA high society at the time, so what do I know?) Sure, it was 20 years ago, but would the fact of Hector's being gay really have been so scandalous that no one acknowledged it? (His penchant for barely-legal PYTs and sex for money, OK.) It also doesn't help that few of the characters are especially interesting. Make that "one." Philip Quennell has potential, but we never really get under his skin enough to feel like we know what makes him tick. Yes, he's a recovering alcoholic; yes, he wrote an expose of a book before IW opens that made him some powerful enemies; yes, he's the only person in the novel who won't back down on questioning how and why Hector's death came to be labeled a suicide. (BTW, Dunne never fully clears up who did it, either, as the never-convicted killer identified at the book's end has an alibi that's never addressed.) Flo March is a runner-up, though her beautiful-but-naive working class waitress character seems a bit dated and predictable. But as for Jules and Pauline? Not just not likeable, but not particularly dislikeable or loathsome, either. He's a rich guy with powerful connections who can pull strings the rest of us can't imagine. She's a rich guy's wife with impeccable taste (of course, her bottomless bank account doesn't hurt) who initially seems more sympathetic but ultimately reveals that she's not above pulling a few strings of her own to retain her position of privilege. All in all, the book wasn't so bad that I'd be unwilling to give Dunne's take on the rich and famous another shot, especially for a quarter -- but The Nanny Diaries or a juicy, trashy Olivia Goldsmith romp it ain't.