Belatedly heating up
What's most puzzling is that this used to mean something. Dunne has lost none of his adoration of the wealthy social elite of New York, but the rest of us have. Inherited names may still be boldface, but now they run beside the latest Disney teen sensations. A society pedigree means little when a geek in Seattle can become a billionaire philanthropist. Power no longer is as simple as a once-vaunted family line.
This sense of shift is absent from "Too Much Money," despite the fact that so many of its characters are at the end of their lives. Their world remains intact, and it's the worse for it. At best, the book reads like an anachronism; at worst, it's insular and boring.
When "Too Much Money" gets cooking in its final pages, it shows what Dunne could do when he heated up. It's juicy high-society soap opera, complete with conflict, redemption and a post-funeral bathroom showdown. It seems that Dunne, who succumbed to cancer during the final editing of the novel, saves his intensity -- and, perhaps his secrets -- for the end.
Kellogg is the lead blogger for Jacket Copy, The Times' book blog.