The Darlings by Cristina Alger is Dallas meets As The World Turns. It’s a world of too many grays and lots of ethical slippery slopes. It’s Soap Opera and suspense in a Wall Street world of wealth and status.
Paul Ross married into the Darlings when he married Merrill. Out of all the family members, Merrill and Paul seem like the only authentic couple. Paul once worked for a Hedge Fund who were prosecuted for insider training. Even later in the novel, Paul admitted to seeing what wasn’t right. If he said something, no one else would hire him. If he did not say anything, he could get into trouble with the SEC. As it turned out, the SEC interrogated Paul.
Carter Darling, Merrill’s father, hired him as General Counsel for Delphic after Paul lost his job, but was never convicted of anything. As his son-in-law, Paul oversaw RCM (another division of Delphic). Yet, Paul didn’t know the actual workings of RCM or where they invested the money of their clients. When something funny comes up with RCM, Paul inquires with Carter who tells him to just assure the questioning person of the integrity of all the investments. Paul does this even with his misgivings. This will hurt him later in the novel. When Morty commits suicide, RCM becomes exposed. The SEC, David Levin, investigates the Darlings.
David has his own problems, like a boss who is only after advancing up the ladder of success even if that means unfairly firing David. Carter Darling sweats out the latest scandal as the Darlings gather together for Thanksgiving. By then, David Levin has contacted Paul about his suspicions. RCM has made profit even when profit has been impossible at times. The graphs show perfect profit and trades being done on a day when Wall Street was closed. Paul discovers the discrepancies and worries about his relationship with Merrill. Merrill has always chosen family over Paul. She even went as far as to keep her maiden name after they married.
Luckily, Paul doesn’t have a great relationship with his family or his marriage would have long ago suffered from the controlling members of the Darling family. Alger does a great job showing instead of telling in describing the Darling family and their dynamics.
What she doesn’t do well is keep the point of views straight. On page 37, we are in Lilly’s head, but yet we veer into Daria’s head for a moment as she assess the problem, makes observations on Lilly and a phone call she had earlier with Lilly. How would we know this if we are still in Lilly’s head?
Alger has several point of view issues like in one chapter where I had to back track to re-read previous chapters because the chapter I was in used too many pronouns (he, she) and I didn’t know who she was and assumed she was from a previous chapter. As it turned out, she is the woman Carter has been having an affair with who will be David Levin’s ace in the hole at the end of the novel. It would have made things less confusing if the chapter introduced “she” as Carter’s mistress. As the investigation continues, things heat up in the Darling family.
Paul Ross discovers he will have to go against the family as Carter and Sol decide to frame him for the fraud in RCM. Surprisingly, Merrill sees the reality of her family and stands by her husband. Together they fight the fraud as Paul walks across this slippery slope and tries to prevent history from repeating itself again. There is so much drama in The Darlings.
It truly is like watching a Soap Opera. First, the novel begins rather slowly with none of the suspense the back of the book claims. It reads like a gossip magazine about celebrities. The writing is fantastic.
Alger writes with all show and no tell. There are no cliches. Alger is a writer with a firm hold on dialogue. She is able to make the Darlings and the world in which they live feel real. Then, the novel gets complicated as the Darling family and Delphic/RCM begin to fall a part and the pieces of the story begin to connect.
I enjoyed reading it in spite of the amount of cuss words generously peppering the dialogue or the loose morals that go accepted as if normal. In the end, Paul and Merrill do the right thing and turn against the Darlings. Because of the excess of swear words and the switching of points of views without warning, I gave this novel four stars. The last chapter hinted at another novel. If another novel came out from this book, I would read it.
*book given by publisher to review. Bravo channel is making a series of this novel.