“Incognito” Invokes the Age of Not-So-Innocents

Posted: August 25, 2011 in Entertainment, Literature, New York City, Uncategorized

If nothing else can be said about Gregory Murphy’s debut novel Incognito, aside from how marvelously the gentleman has utterly and perfectly captured the New York City of one hundred years ago, it is his impeccable and inherent gift for research about the period and the inhabitants therein. His wondrous imagery bursts off the page with total resplendence, and aside from how joyously the narrative reads, the story provides the most miraculous ability for a history lesson, likened as rain brought to a thirsty soil.

William Dysart is a remarkable young attorney to the manor born, whose world contains no room for the demons that have tormented him since the disappearance of his mother while a small boy. Married to Arabella, to whom the daily papers refer as the most beautiful woman in New York, Dysart seems to have the entire world on a string; his father and stepmother possess a significant fortune, he and wife make constant appearances at all the parties one really should attend to maintain a social standing, and he’s in contention for a tremendous future at the law firm governed by managing partner Philipse Havering.

That is, until society dowager Lydia Billings steps in, and demands the firm’s help in removing one Sybil Curtis from a small home on the Billings property in the Long Island enclave of Lloyd’s Neck. Which wouldn’t normally be problematic but for the fact that Ms. Curtis, a thoroughly bewitching creature, has more secrets up her sleeve than a political strategist, and it’s a mere matter of time before Dysart finds himself smitten. This is complicated further by such matters as his marriage to Arabella slowly crumbling at the seams, Sybil’s torrid affair with his old school chum Albert Penniman which turns out to be nothing more than a blatant social climb, and his aunt Edith Bradford, a suffragist and stalwart women’s rights activist who can tell William more about his mother with a glance than anyone else is willing to spill with oceans of explanation.

The highways and byways of this novel are copious, and in fact evoke the greatest storytelling skills of such masters as Edith Wharton. But the surprise ending even emerges as reminiscent of O. Henry in his prime, so difficult is it to see where the last chapter will finally lead until we the readers are helplessly immersed. Suffice to say, one breathes a sigh of inestimable relief to know that the dark cloud of Dysart’s unhappy existence contains some semblance of a silver lining, no matter how unexpected.

In a perfect world, writers like Gregory Murphy would be coming into their own on a daily basis with a long line of timeless works that would be cherished by millions, and take their rightful place in literary history. Alas, such happenstances are few and very far between in the current day and age. Therefore, it couldn’t be more highly recommended to purchase a copy of Incognito. A read this sumptuous only comes around once in an extremely long while.


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