New England White (Vintage Contemporaries)

by Stephen L. Carter

Paperback, 2008




Vintage (2008), Edition: Reprint, 617 pages


In a New England university town of Elm Harbor a murder begins to crack the veneer that has hidden the racial complications of the town's past, the secrets of a prominent family, and the most hidden bastions of African-American political influence.

User reviews

LibraryThing member marient
Set in the university town of of New Englands's Elm Harbor where a murder threatens to reveal the racial complications of the town's past, the secreats of a prominent family, and the most hidden bastions of African-American political influence. The story of Lemaster and Julia Carlyle-he the university president and she his wife.… (more)
LibraryThing member lizshafran
Stephen Carter explores the world of the Carlyles, an upper-middle class African-American family, and their place in an Ivy-League type setting. This is a familiar theme to Carter who wrote about a similar dynamic in his previous novel The Emperor of Ocean Park.

The Carlyle family is entangled with a decades-old mystery that is somehow related to the recent murder of a university colleague. In the discovery process, the reader is introduced to a social networking system amongst wealthy African-Americans that appears to be secretive to most of the country's general population.

Although Carter attempts to try to enlighten the reader with many examples that differentiate this group from others, the reality is that it appears minutely different from any other privileged class that functions in the Ivy-League world. In this regard, the novel rehashes familiar themes of privilege, abuse of power, and the fall-out from a have and have-not dichotomous society.

The framework that Carter creates for the murder-mystery is presented as a tightly interwoven series of puzzles that must be solved by a teamwork of people, particularly Julia Carlyle. Initially, the riddles are complex and reveal key plot elements. As the story unfolds, they are larger gaps between the clues and how the connections are drawn amongst the details of the dual murders. As the reader nears the conclusion of the novel, the pace picks up so quickly that it doesn't reflect the attention to detail that is present at the beginning.

This book is an enjoyable read as a suspense novel but it is not the social commentary that it has been touted as being.
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LibraryThing member delphica
(book 27 in the 2008 book challenge)

I enjoyed reading this very much, although it had some of the same problems that his first novel, Emperor of Ocean Park did. The wife of an Ivy League college president gets caught up with investigating the murder of a faculty member (who also happens to be her former boyfriend) after realizing that her daughter is somehow indirectly involved. I liked the college setting, and as always I remain fascinated by the historically upperclass African American community (which overlaps a tiny bit with the characters from the first novel). The mystery itself is difficult to follow, I have a very hard time believing anyone would be able to either create or solve such a convoluted set of clues. It seems to rely an awful lot on a very vaguely worded hint that causes another character to have a Eureka! moment in which she realizes the true intended meaning with absolute clarity. There's even one clue in the book that the main character gets wrong at first, and then corrects later on, and that seems worse, in a way, as if brilliant Mr. Carter suspected some of his readers might start feeling inadequate so he wanted to throw us a bone.

Grade: B+
Recommended: It's a good read if you are willing to let go of any realistic notions about crime solving. The action is good, the pace is swift, and the characters are deeply interesting. I've personally decided to treat the conspiracy itself like an medieval allegorical poem -- something that isn't supposed to make that much sense in the real world, but you just need to roll with it to get to the ideas behind it.
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LibraryThing member Bookmarque
Conspiracies make for great fiction and that’s what at the heart of this mystery. Someone is covering up a 30-year-old murder, but it’s a fresh murder that spurs Julia into action. Like the hero of The Emperor of Ocean Park, Julia is a reluctant sleuth. She is drawn ever deeper into the mystery by clues only she can interpret and string together for a conclusion. The people she trusts are few; not even her own husband.

Julia’s ex-boyfriend Kellen Zant is the latest victim; murdered to keep him from revealing the previous killer. Is it the President of the US or just a Senator from a New England state? Maybe it’s Lemaster himself since he was roommate to both men in college. Along the way she meets suspicious townies, gossipy Sister Ladies, vicious dogs, corrupt lawyers and closed ranks of the rich and powerful.

Once again, there is an element of race, but no axe grinding away and no preaching. Again, these black folks are living in a most white area of the country; New England. They are accepted, but is it only because of guilt? Oh that lovely white guilt. But again, the racism cuts both ways and we have again the attitude of divisiveness for the sake of divisiveness on the part of many of the black characters in this novel. Racial harmony will not come easily until both sides are willing to cut the crap.

Full of interesting characters, this was a much more tightly plotted novel than the previous one. Julia’s motivations were shown and not tied up in a bunch of internal monologues and angst and I understood her more for it. It was much less an internal novel and much more external and once things started moving, they didn’t let up. An nice long story arc with a satisfying ending.
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LibraryThing member kylenapoli
An odd mix of compelling and cold. A month on and I can barely remember the resolution to the central mystery, but certain scenes and turns of phrase jump up to be recalled.
LibraryThing member bohemima
Antoher of Carter's literate, erudite, elegant, but occasionally pompous novels of upper-crust African American life, nicely teamed with a Grisham-like suspense plot.
Julia becomes inadvertantly involved with the murder of a former lover and the long-ago death of a young girl. The book drags a bit for the first third, but then the plot complications pick up and if flies along.
A fine book somewhat spoiled by an ending that seems to be completely from left field.
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LibraryThing member waldhaus1
Brilliantly plotted and written. Very enjoyable. Moving
LibraryThing member LivelyLady
When Professor Kellen Zant is found murdered, a decades old mystery is resurrected. It involves the President of a university and his family who were socially related. Very good depiction by a black author of a successful black family in a upper class white community . Not a quick read, but hard to put down.
LibraryThing member amaraki
600 pages for a murder mystery is too much. Even name of the rose was 500 pages and that had so many other major elements to develop. So I got up to page 147 and then skipped to the end. Too much on While there were ivery interesting details about the life and mores of upper eschelon black Americans, I was left yawning with Julias constant vacillations and internal conflicts. About 300 pages less and trhis would have been en point.… (more)
LibraryThing member r0ckcandy
First off, this is a very large book. I wasn't sure I'll be able to get through it but I did. This book is a murder mystery surrounding an African-American president of a university, his wife, her dead ex-lover and a crime that happened over 30 years ago and how they are connected to it. It was a difficult read at first. Many characters and situations to remember but once I understood what was going on within the story, I swept through it. I wanted to know how it was going to end. The ending was a bit of a letdown, however. It was not what I was expecting at all. I wanted something more. I know that the author is a law professor at an Ivy League school so the book was a bit wordy to say the least. I get it. The guy is smart, probably smarter than the rest of us. Maybe I should have started with his first book then I would have been prepared for his writing style.… (more)


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