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Review of 'A Simple Plan', a novel by Scott Smith
This review is based on the paperback version of the novel., published by Corgi, 416 pages, ISBN 978-0552155250, cover price £6.99. Genre:- Crime/Thriller
Each New Years Eve, Hank Mitchell and his older brother Jacob make a pilgrimage to their father's grave. Their father and mother were involved in a car accident, their father died instantly and their mother passed away a few days later. After the tragedy it transpired that their father was in deep financial trouble and his farm was about to be repossessed. Hank and his wife have always suspected his parents had carried out a suicide pact.
The visit was ordered by their father in his will, he requested that his boys pay their respects on his birthday. A strange request especially as the two brothers had never been close. They were chalk and cheese, Jacob had been overweight since childhood, he was none too bright at school and was bullied. Hank was more intelligent, slim and more athletic than his older brother. The brothers live very different lives, Hank working as an accountant for a local animal feed company, he owned a house in a nice area of town, wife was expecting their first child. Jacob lives alone in a shabby flat with his male dog, Mary-Beth. The dog was named after the one girlfriend Jacob has ever had. He is unemployed, has no money and no purpose in life other than drinking and eating.
They keep the tradition for 7 years but on the 8th year, things change. This year Jacob's friend and drinking partner, Lou comes with them. As they drive towards the cemetery in Jacob's truck through the snow covered countryside, a fox runs across the road. Jacob swerves to avoid hitting the animal, and they skid on the ice and crash. Jacob's dog leaps from the truck and chases the fox through the deep snow and into the woods. The three men follow him, beating their way through the drifts.
They come across a small plane, belly down in the snow. Jacob and Lou are too unfit and out of breath to scramble inside the crashed plane to investigate, so Hank is persuaded to undertake the task. To his horror he discovers the pilot strapped into his seat, he is dead and crows have begun to devour his face. As Hank recoils in shock, he stumbles over a duffel bag. Inside the bag is 4.4 million dollars in used bank notes.
He shows his find to Jacob and Lou who disagree with him that they should report the crashed plane and the money. They have nothing, a large windfall would change their lives. After a lengthy discussion, Hank agrees to take the money home, hide it and say nothing to anyone. They feel that as there has been no hue and cry in the news over a missing aeroplane or money, they might just be able to keep it. Hank is doubtful of this decision, but reasons that if there is no mention after 6 months, they can share the money between them.
A very simple plan but one that leads to a roller coaster of events that stretch their morals, integrity and loyalty to the very limits.
**My Thoughts and Conclusion**
I found 'A Simple Plan' to be a novel that really grips the reader as it unfolds into a spiral of events. I read it in two sittings and being a bit of a speed reader, finished it in hours. The plot is a simple one, but very effective as the greed of ordinary people forces them into a bizarre series of events. These three ordinary American men are tempted and seduced into behaviour they would never normally consider, violence, betrayal, blackmail and mass murder all put in an appearance.
For a first novel, A Simple Plan is very well written, there is a slightly 'plodding' section within the plot but I felt the rest of the novel was so well paced, the plot unfolding in a natural and interesting way, the dialogue crisp and fresh, that this could be forgiven. I had not read anything by Scott Smith before so had no preconceived expectations for the novel.
The central characters were very well described, Hank, Jacob and Lou in particular were brought to life for me. Hank's wife I found rather irritating but I felt her character made a good foil for slow, plodding Jacob, feisty Lou and the more ordinary Hank.
After reading this book, I found myself pondering the dilemma the characters found themselves in, what would I do in this situation? I'd like to think that I would do the 'right thing' and report the find. I think most people would agree that this is the correct procedure to follow, but if actually faced with a large amount of cash, how many of us would succumb to temptation and keep the money, or even a portion if it? I hope no one would be tempted to go to the lengths the characters in this novel went to in order to keep the money, but who knows how they would react until faced with a duffel bag stuffed with bank notes! As the saying goes, 'Everyone has their price'!
I am awarding this novel a 4* rating, I felt some of the violence was a tad gratuitous and if not for this factor, would have rated higher.
To conclude, I would recommend this book to others, especially readers who enjoy a thriller with a bit of a difference.
Thank you for reading
©brittle1906 June 2012.
N.B. My reviews may be found on other sites under the same user name.