But the publisher has also called it “‘Sex and the City’ meets ‘Catch Me if You Can,’” and if you believe that, I know a German heiress you should meet. As a narrator, Williams is earnest, sympathetic and all too conscientious. “This is not about entertainment,” she told the court. “This is the most traumatic experience I’ve ever been through.” As if to banish the suspicion of mercenary motives, Williams renders this story as bloodless as an exchange with a bank helpline (of which there are many). While she occasionally reflects on larger human truths, Williams is finally too focused on the minute details of her own story — on its credibility — to give the endeavor a deeper moral. The first half of the book reminisces on their friendship; the second is devoted to exhaustive accounts of their text exchanges, Delvey’s fraudulent banking practices and, ultimately, the trial. You don’t envy Williams the ordeal — even if, dramatically speaking, the stakes never exceed her conflict over whether or not to accept a loan from one of several family friends. (She does.) But although the credit card company ultimately reverses the onerous charges, it’s never just about the money; it’s about the betrayal. “I spent so much time begging her for the truth,” Williams writes, “when, in fact, the lie was all there was.”
As befits a con artist, Delvey remains a somewhat shadowy character. Simultaneously imperious and generous, fashion-obsessed and frowsy, solitary and sociable, she styles herself as an entrepreneur looking to establish a “members-only club” on the model of Soho House. But while she hobnobs with investors and real estate brokers, her day-to-day life in Williams’s telling sounds, frankly, awful: hanging around in hotels she never paid for, working out with trainers she stiffed, buying clothes from Net-a-Porter on credit, drinking espresso martinis and blasting Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” at top volume, everywhere, from car services to Infrared saunas.
This sociopathic lifestyle got Delvey the prison sentence she may well deserve: four to 12 years, on charges of grand larceny. But measured against the pantheon of New York shysters, Delvey is a feckless and disorganized small-timer, closer to a hipster grifter than a Bernie Madoff. She has reportedly objected to the press’s portrayal of her as “a greedy idiot” rather than a serious businesswoman, and, perhaps resenting her erstwhile entourage’s success, has announced from jail that she is writing not one but two memoirs. In the words of her lawyer, in his opening statement at her trial: “Sinatra made a great new start here in New York, as did Ms. Sorokin. … They both created a golden opportunity.”