Despite the attention duly paid to the customs of the rich and the politics of power, The Embezzler is arguably less a novel of manners than a novel of character, the sociopsychological chronicle of three strong characters in perpetually sublimated conflict. Thanks to the author’s skillful use of multiple viewpoints, most of the questions remain open and unanswered, suggesting the ultimate human fallibility even of those whose actions and decisions will become binding upon humanity in general: Whatever the reason for Guy Prime’s actions and their subsequent results, implies Auchincloss, the repercussions are still to be felt.
Whatever the reasons for his gradual lapse into crime and his eventual disgrace, Guy Prime remains one of Louis Auchincloss’s most engaging and plausible characters, considerably more so than most of John P. Marquand’s tycoons or John O’Hara’s would-be politicians. Born to marginal privilege, the only male offspring of a mismatched late marriage, Guy grows up determined to “set things right,” using his position and connections to intervene even in matters well outside his proper sphere; thus does he infelicitously play matchmaker between Rex Geer and his rich cousin Alix Prime, a disturbed young woman whom he suspects of frigidity but whose real problem, Angelica will later explain, turned out to be quite the opposite. Indeed, Guy’s gravest flaw appears not to be greed, but rather a chronic and perhaps...
(The entire section is 578 words.)