INCOGNITO by Gregory Murphy

Book Quote:

“I’m afraid I’ve made more than a few mistakes along the way”

“Well, then, unmake them. That’s what life is about—making and unmaking mistakes, getting back on the track and moving on. The problem with mistakes is that they have the habit of growing into such big, fat, lovely excuses.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky  (SEP 17, 2011)

Thirty-one year old William Dysart should be on top of the world. He is a successful attorney, lives in a beautiful home, and is married to Arabella, a stunner who turns heads wherever she goes. Gregory Murphy looks beneath the veneer of the Dysarts’ seemingly enviable life in Incognito.

William is growing tired of doing the bidding of Phil Havering, the managing partner at his law firm. In addition, he has become disenchanted with his wife who, in spite of her great beauty, is insecure and demanding. After six years of marriage, the couple is childless, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that Arabella is a social-climbing, vain, and shallow individual who is more interested in material possessions and status than she is in her relationship with William. “It was rare now that their conversations did not end in a quarrel.”

This is Edith Wharton country —- New York society in 1911 -— and, for the most part, Murphy mines this fertile territory effectively. The premise is intriguing: William is dispatched by his boss to Long Island to convince the lovely Sybil Curtis that it would be in her best interest to sell her five-acre property to Lydia Billings, a fabulously wealthy widow who wants to augment her two-thousand acre estate. William is surprised to learn that Sybil is a self-possessed and independent young woman who is not interested in selling her home, even for the princely sum of ten thousand dollars. Dysart senses that there is ill-will between Lydia and Sybil that goes far deeper than the matter at hand. As the weeks pass, the attorney finds himself sympathizing with Sybil, while Havering is furious that William cannot convince Sybil to accept Lydia’s offer.

Incognito effectively unmasks the hypocrisy of affluent, prominent, and degenerate people who carefully hide their vices behind a veneer of respectability. William and Arabella spend a great deal of time attending charity functions, dinner parties, and other lavish events, and although Arabella is in her element, William is becoming bored with the strain of keeping up appearances. It is painful to observe his deteriorating marriage, and in flashback, we eventually learn why William settled for this loveless union instead of seeking a partner with more depth and character. This is a touching study of men and women at cross purposes. Although William is anxious to bring about a rapprochement between Sybil and Lydia, until he finds out why there is bad blood between them, he is powerless to accomplish his mission.

Murphy stumbles, however, when he makes some labored points about the pettiness, prejudice, and selfishness of those who occupied the highest strata of New York society. They socialize compulsively, spend money lavishly, and care little about such issues as the rights of women and the oppressed. Sybil is a mysterious and provocative character who is less than candid about her tragic past. William is at heart a good man who knows that he will never be content unless he makes some fundamental changes in his life. The book’s main flaw is that, as it progresses, the narrative becomes heavy-handed and melodramatic, with too many revelations, ugly confrontations, and a conclusion that is a bit too pat. Although most of us would agree that the keys to happiness are fulfilling relationships, meaningful work, and peace of mind, Murphy might have conveyed this message with a bit more subtlety. As it stands, Incognito has some powerful scenes, an appealing protagonist in William Dysart and, for the most part, a story that keeps us turning pages, wanting to know what will happen next.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-5-0from 19 readers
PUBLISHER: Berkley Trade; 1 edition (July 5, 2011)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Gregory Murphy
EXTRAS: Reading Guide
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September 17, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Facing History, Mystery/Suspense, NE & New York, New York City, Reading Guide

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