The Manhattan of Jonathan Dee’s 2010 breakthrough novel, The Privileges, was an exclusive, cloistered world peopled by both strains of the blessed few: the preposterously rich and successful sitting pretty in their rarefied realm, and the rising stars destined or clamouring to join them. Adam and Cynthia Morey were on the up, seeing their gilded future ‘not as a variable but as a destination’. The problem was they couldn’t get there fast enough, and it was that impatience to arrive, together with the unanticipated potholes and pitfalls, that kept us turning the pages.
The beginning of Dee’s latest novel, A Thousand Pardons, offers the flipside: the characters less beautiful and more damned. Ben and Helen Armstead are on a downward spiral. Ben is going through not a midlife but an ‘existential’ crisis; Helen is bored and rudderless. When Ben’s sexual overtures towards a