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A Simple Plan Paperback – October 24, 2006
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Elsewhere by Dean Koontz
Learn more about this epic new thriller.
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“Spectacular. . . . Ten shades blacker and several corpses grimmer than the novels of John Grisham. . . . Do yourself a favor. Read this book.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Beautifully controlled and disturbing. . . . Works a devastating variation on the idea of the banality of evil.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Like watching a train wreck. There is nothing to be done, but it is impossible to turn away.” —Chicago Tribune
“A marvel. . . . The story-twists keep you turning the pages and guessing what’s coming next. With cool precision, Smith outlines the ever-widening spiral of distrust and violence.” — The Boston Globe
“A work of deceptive simplicity and singular power. . . . To describe the fascinating parade of thoughts and deeds that lead inexorably to the book’s calamitous conclusion would give away too much of the plot.” — The Washington Post
About the Author
- Item Weight : 13.3 ounces
- Paperback : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780307279958
- ISBN-13 : 978-0307279958
- Product Dimensions : 8 x 5.1 x 1 inches
- Publisher : Vintage (October 24, 2006)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 0307279952
- Best Sellers Rank: #85,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I am surprised at the naiveté of many of the 1 star reviewers for each product. Here's why:
A quick look at the book or movie A Simple Plan makes it clear this isn't a happy story. It's obviously a tragedy, so why put it down for not being cheery?
Reviewers are bewailing the actions of the main characters, saying "Real people don't act that way," or "No one is that stupid." I disagree. Real people act in ways that can be impossible to predict. The first murder in the story involves an impulsive attack and an equally impulsive effort to cover it up and to protect himself and another. The essence of this story is a cascade into tragedy. One action leads to another, meant to cover the previous one up, and so on. If you can believe the opening act, you can believe it all went downhill from there.
It's not for nothing that people say, "The love of money is the root of all evil." Otherwise good people will lie and cheat over money, even a small amount. I had a guy lie about a car accident he caused (he hit me), because he didn't want to pay damages and higher premiums. My insurance company was able to prove he was lying. Our upstanding neighbor told my dad to lie to his insurance company so they'd pay to have 40+ trees removed that came down in a storm. He said to damage our own roof so they'd pay for everything. My ex took a whole bunch of valuable stuff from a friend's apartment after his suicide. The ex's friend took stuff, plus the dead guy's van. My coworker and his wife have found a way to cheat on grocery coupons. People also gamble. A lot. Cash is a big draw. It's not a stretch to believe that someone could, on the spur of the moment, kill others over 4 million dollars, and then continue to do so to keep from getting caught.
No one's that stupid? LOL Of course they are! Google "stupid criminals." Pick up a true crime book or check the news anywhere. You'll find an untold number of cases where people are dumb enough to think they can get away with a crime. How about druggies who call the cops to report a robbery - of their drugs? The guy whose skeleton was found years after death in a chimney - he was trying to break into the house. bank robbers who leave behind a note - with their name on it?
So, what's the point I said they missed? That people are capable of who knows what when large amounts of money are at stake. The characters came up with one "simple plan" which, due to mistrust and greed, devolved into another and yet another "simple plan." This story illustrated just how fast relationships can break down over greed.
My only problem with the book was the last violent scene. The magnitude of the crime, the setting, and the manner of death all seemed out of sync with the rest of the narrative. I imagine that's why this scene wasn't in the movie. Overall, though, a gripping page turner.
The actions of the three men are so surprising because they're "normal guys." Hank is an accountant at a feed store, married with a new little daughter, and although his brother is fairly poor and not ambitious, he had never been in trouble. Lou drank a little too much, but he had a home and a girlfriend, but Hank had trouble trusting his brother and Lou. The three stood around the plane trying to decide what to do, whether to turn in the money and report the plane, put the money back in the plane and say nothing, or keep the money. It was just a simple plan that Hank came up with. But things didn't go simply and as one disastrous act leads to another it becomes a complex story with actions by these three men that are hardly believable in the context of the story.
"A Simple Plan" is about what happens to people when greed, selfishness and jealousy take over and how people rationalize their greed with words and thoughts that disguise it and make it into something that seems acceptable to them. They even rationalize terrible acts of violence as being necessary for the good of someone else when that altruistic thought is still a crime. These characters seem very real and the reader learns a lot about them over the course of the 416 pages that just fly by. Scott Smith put the story together so that there isn't a single loose end left untied and the story flows at such a good pace that reading it is like watching it all play out in front of your eyes without skipping a beat. This is an excellent book and a wonderful debut novel (1993) of suspense that I really loved and enjoyed. It took a lot of creativity, thought and talent to come up with this plot.
The book is very dark in mood as is Scott Smith's other frightening book, The Ruins .
He knows how to set the mood, introduce his characters and pace the book just right, and the writing is excellent.
Highly recommended for suspense/mystery/thriller readers.
Top reviews from other countries
I thought the premise of the story was rather weak, or at least it didn't automatically make me think that it would give way to an amazing story. Two brothers and a friend find $4.4m in a plane, in the middle of nowhere. It's not exactly a gripping premise such as "man is stabbed to death in a room that's locked from the inside". In many respects, the very average premise does give rise to an average story - so why have I rated the novel 4/5 overall? Well, it's not because of the premise!
This is where Scott Smith scores exceptional high from me. The story is told from Hank's perspective, i.e. in first person. The descriptions are always very well written, and nothing is given away too soon on how Hank is going to behave. Despite knowing every step of the way what Hank's going to do (or thinks he's going to do!), we are never sure it's going to work out because he obviously cannot predict other people's nature, which is what makes the book very compelling. The next category I look at (characterisation) is really what makes the book special enough to garner 4 stars from me; but the style of writing is what allows the author to weave a story that feels fresh.
The story is told in a way that it feels biographical. Despite some deaths, the narrator never goes into gory details - the story is definitely not about a serial killer, or even someone who's "turning into a serial killer". The title of the story is true to itself all the way through: Hank always maintains that they must absolutely wait it out, find out if the money is truly unmarked or not, and whether anyone is looking for it. Hence "the simple plan" - waiting it out. Even towards the end of the story, Hank is still holding onto this simple plan - it's only just before the last epic scene (missing from the film) that he's no longer sticking to the plan.
From the outset, we know that Hank is someone who takes few risks, and prefers to be in control as much as possible. Hence he works as an accountant, which lets him control his financial situation but also at the expense of appearing a little boring with life's choices. Hank never deviates from his characterisation - the first time they almost get rumbled, he does his best to cover up the death of an innocent man purely to protect his social circle. A few readers have commented that Hank is "like a sadistic killer"; but that's far from true if you read the novel for its characterisations. Everything Hank does is to give him (and his wife) reasons to keep the money or not; any deaths along the way are a 'necessary' small cog in the giant machine that's turning. Lou's character is one of the most interesting in the story, as he's the complete opposite of Hank - impulsive, a bad gambler, always taking risks, an alcoholic.
If you've watched the film, then you've missed out on a truly epic ending (which I won't spoil for you). The ending isn't anything breathtaking, but it fits in with the premise of the story as well as the reason for the story. It also doesn't feel rushed (but is certainly not dragged on), so you're given ample time to take in what's been happening. Despite all the things that Hank has done, the story never concludes that he's "numb to it all" - it's more a case that his life of predictability was completely upset by the one-in-a-million chance of finding $4.4m that they (he, his wife, his brother, their friend & friend's partner) could keep.
The novel gets 4/5 from me because it's a simple story told in an effective way. It took me longer than an evening to finish it, so I'd consider it a standard sized novel (Patricia Cornwell's "Post Mortem" took a short evening to read, that's how small it is). If you're after a well fleshed-out story and aren't bothered by the lack of twists or lack of plot devices, and you like strong characterisations and descriptions - then this is the book for you. Do not read if you're after a story with an amazing plot or premise.
The book has been called "A compulsive thriller which also happens to be a beautifully written and original work of art" Robert Harris. I believe him. It's such an accurate description of Smith's writing style and of the story itself that the publishers have pasted it across the front of the paperback version of the book.
If you look at the Wikipedia plot description, it is a bit too simple, straightforward and a little misleading. From Wikipedia: Three men find an airplane crashed in a forest. The pilot is dead and the cockpit contains a gym bag with $4.4 million in one-hundred-dollar notes. They decide to keep the money, dividing it equally, but their plans go wrong when others come close to discovering their secret, resulting in multiple murders.
Now that description would catch my interest, but it is not what the book is really about.
Hank Mitchell lives in a rural area of America. He is married and his wife Sarah is expecting their first baby. His brother Jacob, a behemoth of a man, is one of life's under achievers. Jacob's best friend is drunken wastrel Lou. Lou doesn't like Hank and the feeling is mutual.
Hank and Jacob's parents commit suicide when the farm that their father owned got into financial difficulties. The two brothers have little in common and don't even like each other very much. Hank is an accountant and the only bright spark in his life is his pregnant wife.
Hank, Jacob and Lou make an uneasy trio of men thrown together by familial ties, circumstance and financial similarities. Hank, despite being the only employed member of this little group is basically easily led and taken advantage of. He is not strong enough morally or physically to make a stand for himself.
Then one snowy morning all three men are in a pickup truck when Jacob's dog (a male named Mary Beth) jumps out of the truck to chase a fox. Both fox and dog disappear into the woods and the men go to find Mary Beth. Once in the woods they find a small crashed aircraft. They also find a dead pilot and duffel bag stuffed with money.
Hank takes control of the situation and decides that if they hold onto the money for six months it will then be safe for them to split the cash and no one will be the wiser. With explicit instructions to not tell anyone about what they've found, Hank becomes the "keeper" of the money.
Stress, dire financial situations, lack of secrecy and trust all begin to take their toll on the three men and as events snowball out of control, things turn murderous.
This story had me gripped from the first page. Smith paints a brilliant picture of small town life and the people who inhabit it. His painting of the three (four counting Sarah) main characters made them so real and complete I felt badly for them when things got so out of hand.
Hank was the main protagonist and it doesn't take long to see that he really is not up to the task at hand. Sarah becomes a big player in the action by first acting as his sounding board and then later taking a more active role in events.
This tale of greed, fear and mass murder was made into a film in 1998 by Sam Raimi, starring Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, and Bridget Fonda, if it is one-quarter as good as the book, I have to see it.
This was a brilliant book. A real 5 out of 5 stars for originality and for characters that leapt off the page at you, they seemed so real. If you don't read any thing else this year, read this book.
While the title may be A Simple Plan, the story itself is not so simple.
You can read all my reviews at MikesFilmTalk.com
The way the central character builds up to the final stance he takes, how he gradually changes, other reviews overstate how good this is. I liked parts of this book, but I never regretted not finishing it, which should tell you all.
The twisted logic and spiral of paranoia and violence which spins out from this simple plan is hillarious.
A rollercoaster ride in which you are firmly onside with the protagonist as he lurches from one nightmare to another, and cant help but cringe as things take a turn for the worst.