Short Take: Wildly implausible, but I didn’t even care.
(*Note: I received an advance copy of this book for review.*)
Ahhhhhhhhhhh, my beloved nerdlings, spring is FINALLY in the air. Is it me, or did winter last about forty-seven years? Although I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not much for sports or camping, there are two things that make me crave this time of year: #1, I really, really hate being cold, and #2, I really REALLY love drinking cocktails while reading on the patio.
Speaking of debauched languor, let me introduce you all to The East End, and its fascinating look at two very different sides of the Hamptons (or any playground for the wealthy, I’d imagine).
First we meet Corey Halpern, whose single mom Gina has been working as a housekeeper for the billionaire Sheffields for a dozen years. Seventeen years old, Corey wants nothing more than to get away from the poverty, addiction, and abuse that plague his mother’s every waking moment. He’s a seething ball of resentment, but instead of following Gina’s path, he’s got his sights set on college and keeping his nose clean, as we say around here.
Except for one teensy little felonious habit: he likes to break into the houses of the super-rich, usually while the occupants are sound asleep inside. He doesn’t steal anything, or murder them, as tempting as that may be in some cases. No, Corey just likes to mess with the one percenters’ heads a bit – putting salt in the milk, rearranging paintings, that kind of thing.
It’s fairly harmless, and he’s never been caught, but when Corey decides to do his thing at the Sheffields’ house the night before they are scheduled to arrive for the summer, it all goes sideways.
First, the Sheffields’ rebellious daughter Tiffany (ugh, her name WOULD be Tiffany) arrives with her best friend for a night of drinking and movie-watching, trapping Corey on the property. And then Leo Sheffield, the billionaire himself, shows up with his Darkest Secret in tow.
My duckies, do I need to tell you that Everything Goes Horribly Wrong?
What follows is an absolutely gripping downward spiral, seen through the eyes of Cory, Gina, and Leo as each of them reckons with their own demons while simultaneously trying to outwit the others and save themselves.
As I raced to the end (of the End, heh), my poor oversugared brain was at war with itself. The characters are some of the best in recent memory, and even when I was appalled by their actions, I could understand their motivations and feel sympathy for their various situations (even the ones of their own making). But as plot twist after twist landed, I couldn’t help but think “This is INSANE!!!” more than a few times.
But by insane, I mean audacious. As much as I can’t imagine the final scenes in any real-life way, the story is so lean and tight that I also can’t find any specific point where Mr. Allen jumps the rails into “readers are stupid enough to believe this” territory. He manages to take us into the characters’ heads enough that their actions make sense, without over-explaining, hitting that sweet spot (mmmmm sweets) that many authors strive for and never attain.
And in the end (the End) (no I’m not tired of that joke yet), The East End is a breath-holding tightwire act, with more than one fall and also a couple of perfect landings. I’m willing to forgo a bit of realism for a story like this.
The Nerd’s Rating: FIVE HAPPY NEURONS (and a lovely charcuterie platter.)