Matters of Honor.
Knopf, 320 pages, $24.95
Matters of Honor is in many ways the capstone of the seven novels Louis Begley has published since his 1991 debut, Wartime Lies. Though acclaimed for the subtle transformation of his own childhood experience while living underground as a Jew in Poland during the Holocaust, Begley next turned to the ruthless world of high society businessmen and power brokers which he has known firsthand throughout his working life as a lawyer. The result was the charm of the hedonist bully Charlie Swan in As Max Saw It and the irascible anti-Semite Schmidtie of About Schmidt and Schmidt Delivered, as well as The Man Who Was Late and Mistler’s Exit, in which a bleak morality faces off against violence and despair. Yet, disparate as these novels are, each connects to Wartime Lies through Begley’s...