Cover image for The Hampton affair
The Hampton affair
Lardo, Vincent.
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Publication Information:
New York : G.P. Putnam's, 1999.
Physical Description:
311 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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Like Caesar's Gaul, East Hampton is divided into three parts: south of the highway (oceanside), home of the landed gentry, the rich, and the famous; north of the highway, home of the longtime, year-round locals; and in between, where resides--who else?--the middle class. In The Hampton Affair, Vincent Lardo's smashing debut novel, these three worlds collide in a power struggle over land, family secrets, and the almighty dollar.The Hampton Affair is told in three voices: by Michael Anthony Reo, very south of the highway, thanks to the age-old skill of marrying well; Galen Miller, very north of the highway, a descendant of original East End farmers; and detective Eddy Evans, very much in the middle, both literally and figuratively. Michael is desperately trying to save his marriage, which is tied to his wife's fortune. Galen is desperately trying to save his stake in the family farm, suddenly worth a million bucks, from the clutches of his conniving stepmother (who also happens to be his mistress). And in this version of North and South, Eddy has to solve the mystery of who did what to whom--and why--while trying to win the affections of the one young lady in town who seems to have all the answers. Only she's not talking.Set in the Hamptons, playground of the rich, famous, and infamous, with a cast of charmingly devious and double-dealing characters, and a plot that pits the poor against the posh, The Hampton Affair is a bracing martini of a thriller.

Author Notes

Author Vincent Lardo has written numerous novels including China House, The Hampton Affair, and the Hampton Connection. He also published a play entitled All About Steve. After the death of author Lawrence Sanders, he continued the Archy McNally Mystery series.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Lardo makes an impressive debut in this mystery set in the Hamptons. We quickly learn that the Long Island communities that make up the Hamptons are not the exclusive province of the privileged. A highway is the demarcation point: the rich live south of the road, the working class north, and the middle class in the middle. Lardo uses one representative from each locale to take turns narrating the action. Michael Reo, who married very well, begins the tale by witnessing a murder. Next up is the murderer, a well-endowed (physically if not financially) young man who believes, rightly, that his new stepmother is going to cheat him out of his share in a business deal. It is up to Eddy Evans, a police detective, to put all the pieces together. The Hamptons figure prominently in the tale--a major character, in effect--and Lardo convincingly shows the glittery setting's noir side. A fine mix of crime, character, and setting. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

When the words "Hampton" and "affair" are used together, readers can expect a tale involving money, greed, deceit and murder. Lardo's steamy first novel opens with a seemingly idyllic scene: two lovers, a teenage boy and a 40-something woman, are sunbathing by a deserted lake. They enjoy a playful ride in a dilapidated rowboatÄuntil the boy rocks the boat so much that it capsizes. He surfaces, she does not. He sinks the boat and disappears. Michael Anthony Reo, a dapper man whose marriage into one of East Hampton's wealthiest families is floundering, witnesses the murder, but decides not to tell anybody for fear his name will be smeared all over the tabloids. Dutiful, middle-class police detective Eddy Evans is put on the case, but it's clear to the reader that the murderer is a devastatingly handsome East Hampton farm boy named Galen Miller. Harboring dreams of Hollywood stardom, Galen will do anythingÄincluding hustling his natural endowments at beach volleyball courtsÄto escape his life of poverty and the influence of his drunken father. Using alternating points of view, Lardo cleverly intertwines the disparate lives of his three protagonists, while rarely bringing them face to face. Sidestepping the whodunit route, he creates suspense by slowly revealing how Galen came to drown his older lover and by making the reader wonder whether he'll get away with it. Despite occasional bouts of melodrama, the novel is entertaining and, not surprisingly, makes good beach reading. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One The discovery of the second hole of water, my witnessing a murder, and the events that followed were all a result of the heart attack suffered by my father-in-law, Joseph Kirkpatrick.      When that name is dropped in conversation, the usual response is, " The Joseph Kirkpatrick?" The answer is yes, the Joseph Kirkpatrick. When appearing in print, the name is inevitably followed by the epithet "media mogul." I think "prick" would more aptly delineate Joseph Kirkpatrick, but no one has ever sought my opinion.     The seizure occurred a few minutes after midnight, New Year's Eve, at the Kirkpatrick home on Dunemere Lane in East Hampton. Kirk, as he is known to intimates, traditionally celebrated the holiday with a gala black-tie dinner at his beach house. Renowned names in politics, high society, and show business vied for invitations. One hundred, exactly, were chosen. "The party of the years," as one columnist dubbed it, survived the austere thirties, a world war, a cold war, the twist, rock 'n' roll, and punk rock.     But about the time a B-movie cowboy moved into the White House, Joseph Kirkpatrick's empire was the victim of a hostile takeover by a Japanese conglomerate, making him five hundred million dollars richer while transforming the charismatic entrepreneur and womanizer into a cantankerous old recluse.     Thereafter, the gala became less of an event and more of a command performance, until this year, when a much smaller cast--of exactly five, including the host--greeted the new year.     At midnight there was the obligatory champagne toast. Those of the opposite sex kissed; the gentlemen shook hands. The ladies, of course, are allowed to touch cheeks and purse their lips like guppies in a bowl. We sat down to dinner prepared by Maddy, the housekeeper, and served by John, her jack-of-all-trades husband, who this evening donned his butler's hat. John had just finished ladling out the turtle soup when Kirk, seated at the head of the table, turned the bilious color of the broth and began gasping for air. The lawyer, Mark Barrett, seated at Kirk's left, shoved his chair back, retreating as if Kirk had exhibited signs of a contagious disease. Barrett's wife, Milly, seated next to her husband, lifted her damask napkin to her lips daintily although she had not yet tasted the soup. Kirk's daughter, Victoria, seated at her father's right, screamed and I think muttered, "His heart."     I, Michael Anthony Reo, Victoria's husband, was startled by the fact that Joseph Kirkpatrick had a heart.     John called 911 and in less than ten minutes an ambulance rounded the circular drive of the Dunemere Lane house, lights flashing and siren wailing. John, to be sure, had broadcast the victim's name, because John could not carry on a conversation--even a cry for help--without telling his listener that he'd been, for forty consecutive years, Mr. Kirkpatrick's valet, chief bottle washer, and (if need be, on occasion) pimp. Every volunteer in town seemed to have piled into the ambulance, thoughtfully leaving just enough room for the patient.     Vicky and I followed in the Land Rover, which John had brought around to the front door for our use. Notice, please, that I said Land Rover. Michael is not allowed to drive the Rolls, because Michael is accident-prone. His most disastrous mishap was, I admit, marrying into this family.     The ambulance went screaming back up Dunemere Lane, which disturbed no one because no one in their right mind was in residence on Dunemere Lane on a frigid December night. Vicky sobbed all the way to Southampton Hospital. Keeping my eyes on the flashing blue and red lights, I thought of an argument I'd had with Kirk--one of many--that ended with the bastard postulating, "Whoever dies first loses."     Had I won? Not that night. The next morning a prestigious specialist was flown in from New York City. Southampton Hospital's intensive care staff was chagrined, but contemplating the largesse of the Kirkpatrick Foundation, they welcomed the man with open arms. The specialist did exactly what the intern on duty had done the previous evening--watched and waited.     The news of Joseph Kirkpatrick's heart attack hit the wire services on January 2; his Bachrach photo did not have to compete with a shot of Times Square at midnight. Timing had always been Joseph Kirkpatrick's long suit. Two weeks later, Kirk was discharged from the hospital into the care of a nurse supervised by the hospital's heart man, who, in turn, answered to the New York specialist.     One private telephone line was kept open at the Dunemere Lane house. All inquiries regarding Kirk's condition were handled by the public relations staff of WMET, the independent network founded by Joseph Kirkpatrick, where he still retained the honorary title of chairman of the board and an office in the MET Tower building he hadn't occupied in over ten years.     Vicky was determined to remain at her father's bedside. I could do as I wished. "I'll stay," I announced, feigning concern. She wasn't fooled for a moment but welcomed the company. The Dunemere Lane house contains two master bedroom suites, four guest bedrooms, breakfast room, dining room, sunroom, great room, den, and eight servants' warrens on the third floor. (Not the ideal place to wait for the grim reaper in the middle of winter.) The only thing more boring than waiting for someone to be born is waiting for someone to die. You can be coaxed in, it seemed, but not out.     Every night the nurse--cheeks like apples and gray hair cut as short as a man's--announced that Mr. Kirkpatrick was nearing the end of his journey, and every morning the traveler ate a hearty breakfast. By March, I had gained one inch around my waist--totally unacceptable for a vain man, especially one who has good reason for his vanity. Six foot one, a hundred and seventy pounds, a full head of hair which--at forty plus a few years--shows no signs of leaving my head. The result of an Italian-Irish marriage, I was blessed with the best features of each and spared the worst.     The afternoons having finally turned warm enough to make the outdoors enjoyable, I decided on bicycling as a means of exercise. The activity also offered the added incentive of getting me out of the house and away from Operation Death Watch for as long as my legs would hold out. John produced a handsome ten-speed from wherever such things are kept, and handed it over to me like a father bestowing an expensive gift upon an unworthy son. I hope John will do the right thing when Kirk dies and fling himself into his master's grave.     An ancient privet hedge separates the Dunemere Lane house from the back nine holes of the Maidstone Club's golf course. The prestigious club's front yard is the Atlantic Ocean. Every American town of substance has such a club, but few can claim this location as well as a membership comprised of old-guard names and new-guard money. I avoided this route because the old and new were already swarming over the fairways and, if spotted, I would be obliged to assume the demeanor of an undertaker and report on the mogul. Cycling in the opposite direction, away from the ocean, I began to explore uncharted territory. This is how I chanced upon Two Holes of Water Road.     Intrigued by its name, I traversed it from one end to the other in search of the holes of water. The area was dense with tall pines and brush, but thanks to the winter landscape, some very impressive houses could be gleaned from the newly paved road which meandered like a snake through a series of hills and dales. Vicky would no doubt call their inhabitants the nouveau riche--the Kirkpatrick fortune went back all of fifty years.     Besides the houses, I discovered one of the water holes at once. It was what I would call a large pond, some hundred feet off the northern end of the country road. The second hole of water eluded me, and since I had nothing better to occupy my time, searching for it became something of a game. After a week, however, the game became more work than play and I decided that the second hole of water had dried up either by dint of nature or through the efforts of one of the new rich.     One afternoon, in the local bookstore, I chanced upon a rack filled with maps of the area. I found one that contained a blowup of my cycling route, and spotted the blue dot which I knew to be the hole of water I was familiar with and, not far from it, a smaller blue dot which I assumed was the second hole of water. I purchased the map. Utilizing its scale, I calculated the elusive hole of water to be about a half-mile below, or south, of its visible counterpart.     Starting at the north end of Two Holes of Water Road, I cycled south and--estimating the distance--abandoned the bike at what I hoped was the half-mile mark. Walking and scanning the woods as I imagine hunters would when stalking deer, I discovered the path. Hardly wide enough to accommodate two people walking side by side, it would easily go unnoticed by a passing driver and be completely obliterated by foliage in the summer.     Timidly, I ventured onto the path and followed it for some fifty feet, where it turned sharply to the left and terminated abruptly at the edge of a cliff some twenty or thirty feet high. Below me, at the bottom of a dell or ravine, I discovered the second hole of water. The small pond, almost circular, was bordered by a narrow gravel beach and surrounded by tall pines. It could have been the primeval forest if not for the fact that standing on the gravelly bank was a beach chair, green and white webbing in tatters, and not far from it, a decaying flat-bottomed boat.     Feeling like Robinson Crusoe on the trail of Friday, I returned to the spot almost daily. Sometime in April I was rewarded with the appearance of a young man--a boy actually--seated in the chair wearing only his underpants, sunning himself. How he got there, short of dropping out of the sky, was a mystery. Given his sudden appearance and the day not being Friday, I dubbed him Adam. In the following weeks he appeared sporadically in various stages of undress until, in late May, Eve appeared, and judging from what they were up to, I would say the apple had been plucked, devoured, and forgotten. Paradise lost or found--take your choice.     I didn't purposely buy the binoculars and I know this fact doesn't excuse using them, but it tempers the guilt. I recalled the pair I'd seen in the pigeonhole of a fall-front desk in the den--a room Vicky insists on calling the drawing room--and borrowed them. Employing the binoculars, I discovered that madam was a hell of a lot older than Adam. Teacher and student? A thought I found persuasively erotic.     After the murder, I never returned to my observation post. Why? Because I was scared. Would she, in time, float to the surface, bloated and half eaten by whatever aquatic life inhabited the pond? Would I see him, in his briefs, sunning himself? Either was possible, and both frightening. I became paranoid, was certain that he had seen me and, having committed one murder for no apparent reason, would not hesitate to commit another to keep his secret safe. There were even moments when I could talk myself into believing that I had imagined it all, including finding the pond.     Why didn't I go to the police? How could I explain my presence? Bird-watching? Yes, of course, that's why I carried the binoculars. The tabloids would have a field day. "MEDIA MOGUL'S SON-IN-LAW POUNDS PUD IN BUSHES OF POSH RESORT." Shit.     Friday evening, two days after this event, Joseph Kirkpatrick reached the end of his journey. It is said that there is never a second without a third. Who, I wondered, would be next? Copyright © 1999 Vincent Lardo. All rights reserved.