Translated from French by Alison Anderson
Marcus Goldman is a successful writer who has moved to Florida to write his next book. But he is haunted by his past: his point of reference is a “tragedy”, and he measures time from the event.
Ever since he can remember, Marcus has looked up to the Baltimore Goldmans: Saul and Anita and their son Hillel who is almost exactly Marcus’s age. Marcus’s father Nathan is Saul’s brother, but unlike the Baltimore Goldmans—rich, seemingly perfect and invincible—the Montclair Goldmans are not very well-off. Marcus’s grandparents are proud of Saul and his family and dismissive of Nathan and Deborah.
The families see each other for holidays, and Marcus spends as much time as he can with his uncle’s family. He is star-struck with their wealth (the Mercedes Anita drives is worth his parents’ combined salaries) and their seemingly perfect life. Hillel is small, extremely bright and aggressive, and is bullied in school. Hillel’s life changes when he becomes friends with Woody, a troubled, tough boy from a broken home, who sees off any bullies. Woody becomes part of the Goldman family, and the three boys are the Goldman Gang. They all seem destined for a dazzling future: Hillel as a lawyer like his father, Marcus a writer and Woody an athlete. It seems like nothing will stop them.
But when they befriend Scott Neville, a fragile young boy, things start to get complicated. The Baltimore Goldmans and the Nevilles become close. And Marcus, Woody and Hillel fall in love with Alexandra Neville. But she eventually picks Marcus, and the couple keep their affair secret from the others.
The cracks start to appear, not only in the Goldman Gang, but also within the Baltimore family. Marcus finds that things are not what they seem; the families have closely guarded secrets. The lives of the Baltimore Goldmans start to unravel. And then events culminating in the “tragedy” change everything for good.
The book is Marcus’s effort to tell the story of the Goldman Gang and lay ghosts to rest.
Joël Dicker (a writer from Geneva who, like Marcus, had a successful first novel) writes an engaging story with interesting characters. You get a glimpse of the tragedy at the beginning of the book but only find out what really happened towards the end, which keeps up the suspense. The book is a quick and enjoyable read, barring a crazy coincidence that I found hard to believe but was willing to accept for the sake of the story.