RoadTrip America

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The Gold Coast, by Nelson DeMille (Read by Christian Rummel)

Money can't buy class, but it can buy a showy estate in the ultra-elite area of Long Island, known as the Gold Coast. When Mafia don, Frank Bellarosa, buys the mansion next to WASP tax attorney John Sutton and his aristocratic wife Susan Stanhope Sutton, becoming their neighbor, they are stunned by the difference in values, beliefs and lifestyles between them and the reputed murderer. At first they avoid the vulgar man and rebuff his attempts at neighborly friendship. In the manner of "an offer you can't refuse" Bellarosa's persistence eventually overwhelms them, and their snobbish disdain for him turns to acceptance. In fact, John agrees to represent Frank in his murder trial, and Susan welcomes his romantic advances. As the Suttons become more deeply involved with Frank and his violent world they drift farther and farther from the boring, conservative safety of their previous Gold Coast existence.

It would be impossible to listen to DeMille's absorbing story of this suburban interloper and not be reminded of Fitzgerald's Gatsby, with John Sutton as the narrator and Bellarosa harboring Gatsby-like fantasies. Although the book deals with serious subjects-torture, death, IRS harassment, infidelity, and alienation among them -- the humorous situations and dialogue keep it from being depressing. John Sutton's wry observations and comments to and about his peers and Frank are irresistibly laughable. Frank provides comic relief, also, with his attempts to integrate his Italian traditions into the WASP environment he now inhabits.

Christian Rummel's narration is masterful. He is equally adept at portraying the sophisticated snobbishness of Sutton and the sinister, earthiness of Frank. He seems to have no difficulty transitioning between accents, both American English and Italian, of characters from a wide range of social classes. As entertaining as this book is, it is also informative. John's practice of tax law, Susan's patrician upbringing and references to Gold Coast history, Frank's adherence to mafia protocol and his wife's interest in Italian food and family values provide a wealth of insider information for the listener. Memorable characters who drive the engrossing plot from the opening scenes to the startling conclusion, make this another DeMille masterpiece.

Ruth Mormon

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