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A Simple Plan Hardcover – August 31, 1993

4.0 out of 5 stars 385 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Once one accepts the bizarre premise of Smith's astonishingly adept, ingeniously plotted debut thriller, the book fulfills every expectation of a novel of suspense, leading the reader on a wild exploration of the banality of evil. Indeed, it is difficult to believe that a tyro writer could have produced so controlled and assured a narrative. When Hank Mitchell, his obese, feckless brother Jacob and Jacob's smarmy friend Lou accidentally find a wrecked small plane and its dead pilot in the woods near their small Ohio town, they decide not to tell the authorities about the $4.4 million stuffed into a duffel bag. Instead, they agree to hide the money and later divide it among themselves. The "simple plan" sets in motion a spiral of blackmail, betrayal and multiple murder which Smith manipulates with consummate skill, increasing the tension exponentially with plot twists that are inevitable and unpredictable at the same time. In choosing to make his protagonist an ordinary middle-class man--Hank is an accountant in a feed and grain store--Smith demonstrates the eerie ease with which the mundane can descend to the unthinkable. Hank commits the first murder to protect his brother and their secret; he eerily rationalizes the ensuing coldblooded deeds while remaining outwardly normal, hardly an obvious psychopath. Smith's imagination never palls; the writing peaks in a gory liquor store scene that's worthy of comparison to Stephen King at his best. Two things are certain about this novel of moral corruption: it will rocket to the top of the bestseller lists and the movie (rights have been sold to Mike Nichols) should be a corker. 75,000 first printing; BOMC and QPB alternates.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-On an afternoon jaunt, Hank, his brother, and a friend accidentally discover a wrecked plane. Inside they find the dead pilot and a sack containing four million dollars. The men know that they should notify the authorities, but instead they devise a foolproof scheme for keeping the money. They will hide it for one year, tell no one, live normally, and then divide the loot into three equal portions. Nothing can go wrong with such a simple plan-or can it? Smith draws his characters deftly, fully exploring the changes that occur in each of the men after their discovery. The plot is clever, gripping, and full of twists. As Hank narrates the story, the tension builds slowly, but is sustained until the surprise ending. YAs will quickly become caught up in this polished suspense novel.
Judy Sokoll, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 335 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (August 31, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679419853
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679419853
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (385 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Douglas A. Greenberg VINE VOICE on December 31, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
When I began this novel, I already had an inkling of what the trajectory of the plot would be, based upon the information on the book jacket. It's no secret that the story revolves around what unfolds when three men accidentally stumble upon a plane that has crashed with millions of dollars in cash on board. The bulk of the book explores the grim consequences of this discovery. Despite the generally predictable and even formulaic nature of the plot overall, Smith has done an amazingly skillful job of creating a page-turner of a suspense novel that is nearly impossible to put down. The particulars of just how things go awry for the various principals involved are spun out in ingenious fashion over several hundred extremely well-written pages.
This book not only tells a gripping (and sometimes gory) tale of how a seemingly "simple plan" goes awry, it also provides clear insight into the darker side of the human condition, that is, how under particular circumstances even seemingly "nice, normal people" can end up committing and rationalizing the most heinous deeds, always with "good reasons" behind their actions. The way that Smith lays bare the fragility of human ethics and morals sadly rings true, and renders the book as depressing as it is horrifying and suspenseful. Overall, it's a terrific read that should not be missed.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is, without a doubt, an amazing debut novel. It is a modern day morality tale, which sees people's lives change significantly, when they come upon a veritable treasure trove of money. The change is not necessarily for the better, as the reader will discover.
The plot revolves around two, small town brothers, Hank and Jacob Mitchell, who, along with Jacob's friend, Lou, inadvertently come upon a downed plane that is buried in the snow, deep in the woods of a rural area. In that plane is a dead pilot, along with four million dollars in cold, hard cash. All three of them could sure use the money. The question is, what are they going to do about it?
They come up with what they think is a simple plan. They will take the money and just wait and see, not spending it, until the coast seems clear. From the moment they make this decision, life is never the same for any of them. Hank, taking charge of the money for safekeeping, begins to undergo a change that is seemingly uncharacteristic of one who is outwardly so respectable, rational, and benign of countenance.
As the issue of the money begins to divide the three accomplices, greed and betrayal bubble to the surface, to culminate in a series of chilling, cold blooded murders. Meanwhile, Hank, manipulated by his Ma Barker of a wife, Sarah, begins a personal downward spiral, succumbing to an evil so profound, that it will leave the reader open mouthed.
What happens to them all makes for an amazingly powerful and riveting story of psychological suspense. Written in clean, spare prose, this well crafted novel is a riveting page turner that grips the reader from the inception, holding the reader in its thrall until its climactic conclusion. The ending serves to show the reader that what goes around, does, indeed, come around.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book sat in my bookcase for months until I finally decided to read it. What an excellent decision! The story was absolutely mesmerizing with a fantastic plot and very well written. It was tightly constructed with no obvious loose ends.This first novel held my interest as the narrator Hank, an accountant, reveals how he, his older brother Jacob and Jacob's friend Lou accidently discover a crashed plane and over $4 million hidden within its fuselage. From the decision to take the money, Hank reveals the thoughts and emotions, the fear, anxiety and the development of sociopathy with rationalization and self-preservation justifying increasingly violent and irrational behavior. The story has the ability of allowing the reader to think along with Hank and his wife Sarah and compare their decisions to what the reader may have done in similar circumstances that makes this a great exercise in values clarification.
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Many people were disappointed by Smith's most recent novel, "The Ruins" (although I wasn't one of them) so I knew I had to read Smith's first novel to see how it compared. The truth is there is no comparison that can be made as "A Simple Plan" is as far removed from "The Ruins" - genre-wise, story-wise, everything-wise- as a novel can be. If there could be a true comprison made for this book, it would be Woody Allen's film, "Crimes and Misdemeanors." That an author can write two such different novels AND succeed with both is an achievement.

Smith is a damn good writer and this tale, a story as simple as Hank Mitchell's plan, is riveting. There wasn't one point in this novel where I wasn't worried that if I turned the page, everything would come out in the open. Between Hank's simple plan, his wife Sarah's murderous lucidity and the growing body count, there is never a dull moment. I do confess that by the end of the book, I was starting to feel like the widening circle of death was getting a bit too extreme (for those who only know the film version of the novel, they diverge in a major way halfway through so the book will be a new experience) but at the same time, if I was Hank Mitchell, what would I have done? That's a question I kept asking myself and still do.
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