I simply can not believe that this is Paul Wornham’s first book. I am convinced he has a few hiding somewhere or under a different name because if this is his first full novel then the Mystery world better prepare. Mr. Wornham is going to be causing quite a scene!
Mr.Wornham requested a review through my blog and I was thrilled. No matter how many times it happens, I am always surprised when I get a request because I revere storytellers so much. The irony is I am told I can be a tough reviewer and I think Paul must’ve heard that rumor because he expressed some anxiety when I agreed to read The Philanthropist’s Danse. This review is not about me. The only reason I mention this is because I approached ‘Danse’ with an open mind and no expectations. I think Paul was pulling my leg…
Here is the summary from the book: Twelve people. Five days. One fortune.
Johnston Thurwell, one of the world’s richest men, dies unexpectedly. His family expects to inherit his wealth, but instead discover the dying philanthropist has spent his last days planning something called The Danse. The twelve most important people in his life are brought together to decide the most important question at the end of it. Who will inherit his fortune?
The family is sequestered in the philanthropists’ remote country mansion with a group that includes his best friend, his most loyal servants, and his greatest rival. They must agree who among them will share the fortune, but they must do it against the clock. Every twenty-four hours, the fortune is reduced. In just five days, it will all be gone.
The thin veneer of civility among the twelve is ripped away by naked greed as their lust for money drives them into betrayal, blackmail and violence.
The desperate family will do anything to save their inheritance. Except share it.
Once I began reading I was immediately drawn in to the story. Each character is intrinsic to the storyline and this author makes sure you are aware of it by allowing the reader to drop into the character’s mind and see his point of view. No one character is the main focus of this story and though it may seem unsettling, this story simply flows. I felt like a fly on the wall. I was completely enthralled by each and every one of these characters and the circumstances that had brought them together.
Only two characters have a definite role to play in the events to come; William Bird, who is the late Johnston Thurwell’s lawyer and holds the instructions laid out by his employer and Johnston Thurwell himself who fills the minds of every guest and pervades each room of the mansion.
Every contingency has been allowed for by Thurwell and William Bird, armed with several sealed envelopes given to him by Thurwell, need only to find the appropriate one which contains further instructions. The lawyer doesn’t have any idea what is written in these and can only open them if events match the handwritten labels on the envelope.
As you are introduced to each participant of The Danse, you may form a feeling of empathy or of dislike for each but I guarantee each of these opinions will change many times throughout the events of this book. Not only do these people have to decide who gets part of the fortune but what percentage each one gets. The situation is explosive and seemingly impossible when each person has dark secrets or allows greed to control their actions.
I could not put this down. I had no idea what would happen next or how this could end. I will not ruin this story with too many details but if you like a good Agatha Christie mystery you will be very pleased with Paul Wornham’s ‘Debut’ novel, The Philanthropist’s Danse.