A 17-year-old semi-educated boy from a podunk town in Germany lands in America with a bogus visa and almost no money. 30 years later he’s standing trial in an American courtroom accused of not just of kidnapping and custodial interference, but more importantly spending three decades deceiving countless people into believing he was everything from a British royal, Hollywood producer, Wall Street wiz kid, and at the end of his fantastic run of deception a wealthy member of the Rockefeller clan. Several years after his convictions for those crimes, he would be convicted once again, this time for a double murder he committed while living in one of Southern California’s most exclusive communities. The amazing life of Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, as portrayed by Mark Seal in his 2011 book The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter makes the Talented Mr. Ripley look like a mere amateur.
Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness, back in 2011 might have been the first blogger to bring this book to my attention. Even though the book generated a decent amount of buzz I never got around to reading it. Whenever I’d visit the public library and see The Man in the Rockefeller Suit on the shelf I’d be tempted to check in out, but never did. Then not long ago I found myself in the mood for a book like The Man in the Rockefeller Suit and was luckily for me my public library happened to have an available copy. Lucky indeed was I because I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Like all good books I waiting too long to read I kicked myself for not reading it sooner.
When it comes to The Man in the Rockefeller Suit, two things struck me. Number one, the sad irony is Gerhartsreiter for all his crimes and faults is a highly intelligent, charming and industrious individual. Had he applied himself to any number of legitimate endeavors he would have lived a successful and prosperous life. Number two, while those of a cynical bent might shrug their shoulders and say the real reason Gerhartsreiter had so much success as a con artist is all people, no matter how sophisticated they are, have some sort of deep-seated need to be deceived. I on the other hand think the reason Gerhartsreiter was able to fool so many people is all of us, in some way or another yearn to enter the world of the rich and famous. By telling folks he was a Rockefeller or British aristocrat people believed him because they enjoyed basking in his glamour. In short, just like the UFO poster in Fox Mulder’s office from TV’s The X-Files they believed because they wanted to believe.
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit is one heck of a page-turner and easily one of those most enjoyable books I’ve read this year. Consider it highly recommended.