Is That A Symplexophon On A French Louis Philippe I See?

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You know, we all have our own opinions, but what do you think is the determining feature that separates the haves from the have nots? What, if anything makes one better than the other?  Well in Dangerous Illusions you realize that besides the multi-million dollar bookshelves, the ownership of antique musical instruments, insider or privileged information; the key factor seems to be the internal motivation of getting what you want, how you want it, and where you want it, by any means necessary.

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This is a first-person account of complicated family dynamics, inner turmoil, seduction, treachery, dishonesty and murder. Longing and larceny are ever-present as a group of characters try to find their inner core in the Big Apple. At the centre of the story is young economic historian and novice book writer named Eliot Sexton. On one of the happiest, most celebratory days in recent memory Eliot quickly becomes the primary suspect when a close friend ends up killed at his book launching party in his swanky Park Avenue pad. Oddly enough a missing percussion instrument and the holding on of a continuing life passion may be the smoking gun for the New York Police Department and put our enterprising young man in the crosshairs of some of America’s most fortunate.

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“I am not a particularly superstitious man, but if something inauspicious were to happen – if a bullet should somehow find its way into my head, if I should fail to find my way home some evening, if any untoward accident should suddenly occur – I thought someone should know the truth. Perhaps I should start with the night Eugene Livingston was killed, though in actuality it all began much earlier. Of course, I didn’t realize that at the time.”

Eliot Sexton is a widower of three years and has been living it up as a bachelor in Manhattan, having relations with plenty of woman and indulging himself in all that the good life has to offer. Fashion consultants, book publishers, investment bankers, ex-CIA agents, strangers on the street… Eliot’s had them all, or at the very least, the consumption of his daily thoughts. While juggling woman, Eliot has spent his spare time working on a book about economic history and a forecast for the future with his publisher and sometime bedfellow Laura Arden.

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Eugene Livingston is the Deputy Commissioner for Cultural Affairs in New York and a former US Diplomat. He and Eliot are great friends and went to Boston University together as history majors before they went their separate ways. Eugene furthered his studies and made the decision to go to Columbia Law School while Eliot crossed the pond to study economics in London. After school Eugene became a part of Foreign Service and was transferred to the American embassy in Rome, Italy. Eliot decided his next step would be to find a job where true financial stars are made and celebrated, Manhattan, New York.

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When Eliot first meets Blair Lockhart time stops and his world is flipped upside down. Eugene’s brother Charles and wife Kate introduced Blair to Eliot and they quickly forged a close relationship. Blair works for one of the world’s best, largest, and most profitable investment banking firms and her job requires her being a daily liaison to the White House.  Eliot charms her to a date where he finds out that along with being incredibly smart, beautiful, and fascinating; she is also an ex-CIA Agent. As their relationship proceeds Eliot soon realizes that there is more to Miss. Lockhart than meets the eye. Everything about her becomes more unexpected, improbable, but still very alluring.

“Her only ties to the world were miles of monotonous highways laced with one strip mall after another. It was a place of nothingness, of needles and bark and swamp. There was an absence of color and the deciduousness of life, giving everything a drab prehistoric quality. For all the endless rhetoric about god and country, god felt absent, and country was reduced to a military outpost. She said she didn’t know how she made it through. She didn’t remember much of it, and – what she did remember – she thought I wouldn’t want to hear, telling me that I wouldn’t have wanted to know her then.”

The author showcases an expansive knowledge of New York and a whole host of methods for cultural expression and competence. Musical history and instruments, American history, antique furniture, architecture and the grace of woman, the breadth of knowledge is expansive. He has a great ability of putting the reader in the story’s many environments; feeling old tabletops, the pleasant reality of an autumnal breeze, the fine nature of drum skins, the dilapidated state of one’s apartment complete with a dog in representative form.  This book does have a problem of distracting the reader with other information than staying on course with the murder mystery. The author seems to indulge himself with his writing, knowledge, and research rather than placating the crowd by sticking to the point of the story. In the end I enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to other atmospheric lovers, and armchair detectives.

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 “The taste of Laura’s lips lingered on mine, and it was with great regret that I began to shower and dress. How or why a man could forego such beauty and such pleasures for the sake of salted peanuts eighty-one days and nights a year was beyond my comprehension.”

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