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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 an absorbing 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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VINE VOICEon 11 April 2007
"Lou and I circled the wreck, neither of us approaching close enough to touch it.. The plane was surprisingly small, no bigger than Jacob's truck, and there was something fragile about it; it seemed far too tiny to support the weight of a man in the air. "

Sit tight, because you are in for a breathtaking ride. Hank, brother Jacob, and friend Lou happen upon a crashed aeroplane in a deserted area of the country partially covered in snow. Investigating further they find the pilot who is dead, and a large carrier bag loaded with over four million dollars, just sitting in the plane with the dead pilot.

They are excited but unsure as to what they should do. Should they report it, or just take it away from the plane and split it? Having decided on the latter they decide that Hank will hold the money at home until a safe time has passed, and then they will divide it up. While waiting on time to pass, the personalities of these three guys change in enormous ways. They become anxious and agitated waiting the time out, as each personality does a downward spiral. They sweat, their imaginations run wild, and all they can think about is the pleasures that would be derived from this windfall. There is mayhem and murder as this plot unfolds in this wonderfully gripping novel. The love of money is certainly the root of all evil, and all that goes along with it.

I highly recommend this book. It was worth my time and money.

Reviewed by Heather Marshall Negahdar (SUGAR-CANE 27/04/07)
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on 1 July 2008
Having read RUINS--with it's marvellous prose and none-stop pace--I moved next to A SIMPLE PLAN. Though it was slow to start, it was worth the investment. As every creative writing teacher will tell you, story = character + confrontation. Hank, the main character, is given a very hard time by Scott Smith; which is precisly what you want. There is no fat in this novel. The suspense is a constant, each new obstacle accompanied by something worse. Everything flows organically, each chapter sliced into manageable scenes. Pleanty of surprises from left-field that will leave you breathless. Invest your time in this novel. But what the movie is like, I can't say.
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VINE VOICEon 16 April 2002
An ironic title indeed. I was completely gripped by this morality tale in the same way that I was affected by Shakespeare's "Macbeth" - the profound sense of tragic waste that pervades the final chapters is brilliant. Unlike Macbeth, Smith's hero is an ordinary, underachieving Joe in a dead end job and his wife pregnant, and such was my empathy with his condition and circumstances that I was prepared to reserve judgemnt when he is driven to commit horrifically violent acts. The characters, their weaknesses and their motivation are totally engaging and in a rollercoaster of moral dilemmas the reader becomes complicitous and tries to justify the evil means to a happy ending. The action of course spirals out for control for our hero and a series of heartstopping twists at the end brings down the curtain on a superb read. Strange that Smith doesn't seem to have written any more books - probably worth reading even if they were only half as good as this one. I even thought the film as a good version. But you should read the book.
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on 13 May 2008
Saw this film version about 5 yrs ago, and stumbled on this book during a car-boot sale.
What a superb book. Great storyline, well written, fast paced, and most important of all, believeable?

Put yourself in the same situation..... 4 million dollars between 3 of you, one dead pilot in a crashed plane. What you gonna do? Hand the money in? Kill your brother and his friend? Split the money and run?

Read it.............. great book.
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on 20 April 2002
Great story-telling -- the story starts off simply enough with three men finding a bag of money in a plane but gradually progresses, getting more involved with the characters getting into more complicated situations. It is not predictable, you don't know what is going to happen next, or how the story will finish. I found some parts a bit sickening but I could not stop reading as I wanted to find out what happened in the end.
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on 6 October 2005
This is the one finest pieces of crime fiction/thriller I have ever read and is an absolutely amazing debut by Scott Smith. The book forces you to consider all kind of moral issues and question what you would do if you found yourself in the situtation the narrator is in. As the story developed and events took increasingly disturbing twists and turns I found myself completly hooked. Highly recommended.
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on 19 December 2012
Oh dear. Never have I been so disappointed with a book that has been raved about so much. My God what is wrong with people. Daft story with an even dafter bloke and a wife so evil she should have been locked up. No-one except a psychopath would do what Hank does for money. It's ludicrous. You'd give yourself up or kill yourself by the time the first person died. I don't go in for this "everybody has the capacity to kill" rubbish bandied about. Only if someone abuses or kills your kids I'd say. This isn't even written well. The only reason I've given it 2 stars rather than 1 is that it would probably make a better film than book.
Read this as it author Tim Weaver's favourite thriller. Now there's an author for you. Immaculate, superb thriller writing. And he admits people are psychopaths. Like Hank. Not normal. Definitely not normal.
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on 9 December 2012
The plot is an interesting concept, but the story is spoiled by being too bogged down by endless unnecessary descriptions of trivial and unimportant things. Similarly, the major events of the story are so drawn out that they lose all impact. By the end, the narrator has moved from being Mr Average faced with the extraordinary temptation of four million dollars falling into his lap, to a hardly-credible serial killer. I read this book because I had enjoyed the movie, which is far superior, having so much of the dead wood cut out, thus making the actions of the main protagonist far more believable. I don't think Scott Smith is an author I'll be returning to.
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on 26 February 2002
I was gripped from the very first page and, I am sure like most readers, found myself wondering what I would do in a similar situation. I could vividly imagine going through the same thought process and making the same decisions. I was, therefore, horrified as the situation began to escalate in to such a twist of lies and covering of tracks. But although far fetched by usual standards it was always entirely believable. This book has taught me a lot about myself and I'm so glad I decided to chance this unknown author.
I have to add that the film was a huge disappointment and if you have watched it and are put off reading the book please think again.
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