This is one of those supposedly first person accounts where the narrator (Basil Plant) disappears into the background, with it reading more like omniscient. A gossipy, voyeuristic omniscience spinning a compellingly readable yarn based on the true murder case involving Ann and Billy Woodward. A blurb from Publisher's Weekly points to the appeal of the novel: "knowing glimpses of high living in high places." The author Dominick Dunne, a writer for Vanity Fair, had walked in such places, among such families as the Grenvilles.
The elder Mrs Grenville, the matriarch of the clan, is aristocratic enough she could fluster Austen's Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Pride and Prejudice. As a girl she had her portrait painted by Sargent and lives in a "pile" on New York City's Upper East Side. Her family weekends on an estate on Long Island's North Shore and summers in Newport. Her son, Billy, went to Groton and Harvard. And then he married the woman, Ann Arden, born Urse Mertens of Kansas, who becomes the younger Mrs. Grenville. A showgirl on the chorus line at the Copacabana that is "N.O.C.D." (Not our class, darling).
And there lies the fascination of the tale. Neither Mrs Grenville is remotely likable, although I do feel some sympathy at times, especially towards the end, for both. All the little details of this social dance and the deterioration of Ann and her marriage wouldn't let me look away from this trashy little tale for one moment. Well-written page-turning trash though.