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Reviewed by Lois Henderson for Readers' Favorite
William H. Coles’ Guardian of Deceit, which the author narrates, is a coming-of-age novel about how a young Pittsburgh man, Darwin Hastings, comes to terms with the lifestyle of the rich and famous in New York while living with his cousin, famous football player Luther Pinnelli in his mansion. The focus is on the world of privilege throughout and its underlying tensions, including the dual vices of poker playing and philandering, which both form an implicit part of Pinnelli’s lifestyle. Pinnelli’s physical cruelty and arrogant stance toward others are seen in the light of his sexual impotence and his inability to form constructive and meaningful relationships with those around him. In contrast to Pinnelli’s manipulation of others for his own purposes stand the relatively solid relationships between the other members of the house: Pinnelli’s grandmother; Mrs. Thomas, the house manager; and Sweeny, Pinnelli’s fiancée.
The high-living lifestyle portrayed in William H. Coles’ Guardian of Deceit should prove to make intriguing reading for many. The interplay between the characters is fascinating, with some light humor being added in the portrayal of the elderly woman sitting alongside Darwin Hasting in the plane taken to New York and in Coles’ depiction of the querulousness and demanding eccentricities of Pinnelli’s grandmother. The insecurities that beset Sweeny, despite her celebrity status as a country and western/pop/rock singer, are counterpoised against the quiet assuredness of Hastings as he develops into a fully-fledged young man, with a sound work ethic and applied intelligence. The essential seediness that underlies the world of urban-based wealth and prosperity is described with such potency that the assumedly secure bedrock on which privileged elitism is meant to be based is shown as being a mere myth, an insight that should bring clarity to some.
The audiobook is read at a pace and tempo that made listening to the work a sheer joy. The dramatic emphasis that Coles uses is skillfully done and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout what I wish to call the ‘performance,’ for his reading aloud comes across with the true professionalism of a skilled narrator, whose enthusiasm for his own work is clearly apparent. The sound quality is also that which I expected from the presentation of the work of such a master of the art of storytelling. Guardian of Deceit is riveting throughout, and it should be listened to by anyone who enjoys probing the intensity of relationships present in the homes of the ostensibly high and mighty.