When Richard Papen joins an exclusive group of Classics students, he has no idea of the secret world of drugs, alcohol, and violence he's about to be thrust into. When one of the students winds up dead, can the rest cope or destroy themselves?
Yeah, it sounds like the crime books I usually read but it's a whole lot deeper than that. This is one of those Big Important Books, full of things like themes and literary references. Like Jim Thompson getting the sauce under control and writing about college kids.
While Donna Tartt tarts it up a bit, the plot is straight out of the noir playbook. Rich kids get in trouble, cover up a murder, commit another murder to cover up that one, and continue down the path of self-destruction. Fortunately, Donna Tartt can write the shit out of things and the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.
The characters and the writing set it apart from many similar books. The characters were a well-realized bunch of overly-privileged college brats and their disintegration was very well done. Tartt's writing was several notches beyond what I expected.
That being said, I did not love this book hard enough to crush it to death against my manly chest. While the writing was good, it took forever for things to actually happen. I thought it was well done but I'm not precisely sure I actually liked it. Another thing about it that didn't set my world on fire is that I've recently read The Likeness and felt it was a little too soon to read about such a similar group of asshole college kids.
All things considered, I guess I was enraptured enough to give this a four. It was good but probably overwritten for what it was.