The Bettencourt Affair: The World’s Richest Woman and the Scandal That Rocked Paris
By Tom Sancton. (Dutton, 396 pages, $28.)
The snappy slogan of the L’Oreal cosmetics company — “Because you’re worth it” — takes on a chilling tone in “The Bettencourt Affair,” journalist Tom Sancton’s account of the legal battles that laid bare a famous family’s dysfunction and the political intrigue that tainted a French president.
At the center is Liliane Bettencourt, heir to the L’Oreal fortune, who, at the time of her death last month, was considered the world’s richest woman. She had money to burn, but her decision to lavish $1 billion on a social-climbing photographer 20 years her junior caused a rift with her only child. Was it jealousy or protectiveness that incited Liliane’s daughter to sue him? One has to wonder with a case that leaves no one unscathed.
This stranger-than-fiction true story has something for just about every reader: lifestyles of the rich and famous, clandestine recordings, suspicious payouts from Swiss bank accounts, even suspected Nazis. For me, the most fascinating element is the palace intrigue — literally. This scandal reached all the way to the Elysée Palace and may be why Nicolas Sarkozy is not president of France.
Sancton’s quick work allows this book to appear in almost real time, with the daughter still under investigation and the mother declining into dementia. Sancton doesn’t judge, but presents the facts that make the reader ask the question: Was it worth it?
Every Last Lie
By Mary Kubica. (Park Row Books, 331 pages, $26.99.)
Chicago-area author Mary Kubica made a name for herself a few years ago with her bestselling debut novel, “The Good Girl,” in the same vein as such blockbusters as “Gone Girl” and “The Woman on the Train.” She continued her success with two psychological thrillers that earned critical acclaim. Her latest, “Every Last Lie,” is also spellbinding and provocative, taunting us to turn the pages for more.
Clara and Nick are a loving couple with a precocious 4-year-old, Maisie, and a newborn boy just home from the hospital. Nick clearly worships Clara and his growing family. All appears well — from the outside.
But this story is about the inside, delving into the intricacies of marriage and love and the lies we tell ourselves when things get rough.
Kubica leads us through a maze of emotions. Let’s start with Nick being dead. Right off the bat, he’s killed in a car crash. What we know of Nick is gleaned through flashback chapters, making us like him and wanting to know what led to the fatal crash.
Clara can’t believe it was as simple as the detectives say: Nick was driving too fast on a curving road and slammed into a tree. So she starts to dig into the mysterious remnants of Nick’s life. She is shocked to discover an old girlfriend, a jealous best buddy, a sociopathic neighbor, malpractice accusations, deep financial troubles and his possible thoughts of suicide. How could she not know this side of Nick? What really happened to him? And at her core there’s a nagging need to know: Did he really love her?
Answering that question is Clara’s mission, and her readers’, as we page through this fast-paced thriller. Kubica is a keeper.