A Good Name by Lorraine Davies Knopf
A beautiful young woman from the Midwest relocates to New York City. It’s a classic storyline told many times over, but the debut novel from Lorraine Davies Knopf, A Good Name, offers a sweet blend of class and intrigue. Betsy Sanders is a successful model in The Big Apple, and her life takes an unexpected turn when she meets Neil, a dashing and somewhat mysterious lawyer. Despite the misgivings of Betsy bourgeois mother-in-law, a marriage ensues and the happy couple takes off for Venezuela and champagne baths. Money. Power. Respect. However, fate strikes down the idyllic marriage when Neil decides to board a late-night flight to Miami. Was the slick lawyer hiding a secret life or was Betsy the architect of a devious plan?
Lorraine Davis Knopf hooks the reader early on in A Good Name with an especially likeable protagonist in Betsy Sanders. It’s not an easy task to present an endearing character that is surrounded by money, fame and everything that one could ask for, and what makes Betsy unique is her slightly sassy yet grounded demeanor. The 1960s setting is evoked through the naivety and charm of Betsy’s dialogue, but Knopf also succeeds by making her somewhat naive once her husband disappears. A Good Name is bolstered by a strong base of supporting characters such as the lead investigator/romantic, John O’Brien, the parental lawyer Aaron and a few hilarious gentlemen that could be called The Kings of Comedy On A Train. The characters, despite plenty of room for development, all have memorable defining traits and thus move the story along. The dialogue occasionally suffers from The Cormac McCarthy Effect, meaning it looks good on paper but doesn’t always have the feel of how a real person would talk. Then again, Knopf was actually a New York City model in the 50s and 60s with the Ford Agency, and certainly knows her subject matter. A Good Name moves along briskly, has engaging characters and despite a lack of story build-up (the text is mainly dialogue), Knopf has crafted a reputable debut novel.
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