This ultimately unput-downable literary, psychological thriller gets off to sluggish start, slowly setting the scene for the intense twists and turns to come. Jacob Finch Bonner, “Jake,” once a celebrated young novelist for his first book, has run out of ideas for novels. All his subsequent efforts have proven lackluster, and he slowly falls down the writer pyramid from being heralded as a rising new talent in the NY Times to teaching writer at a third-rate writers’ program. He approaches his students with the cynicism forged from his career descent, trying to encourage them on in an effort he finds capricious based on getting struck by the right inspiration coupled with writing mastery. Jacob believes that all novels boil down to a few narrative arcs, and there’s just nothing new under the sun when it comes to plots.
Until along comes Evan Parker, a student at the program who arrogantly announces that he has such an original, compelling plot that anyone could turn it into a mega best-seller. Evan’s says he’s keeping this a highly protected secret. Jake, sneeringly dismissive and not overly impressed with a story Evan shares featuring a mother and daughter in a boil of hostility. But Jake suddenly turns transfixed and convinced as Evan shares the larger plot, to which we as readers do not become privy.
Dreary years pass, with Jake’s career demise continuing until he dejectedly finds himself a caretaker of a remote rural New York hotel getaway for aspiring writers. At this point, Jake has stopped his writing altogether. When one cantankerous guest reminds him of the sheer arrogance of Evan Parker, Jacob finds himself Googling to figure out why the best-seller never materialized and learns of Evan’s death shortly after they met. Jacob convinces himself about the nobility of writing a story that must be told, especially if much of literature involves stealing ideas from elsewhere and plots that that keep getting recycled. So Jake “cribs” the plot of Evan Parker’s story Crib, and writes the inevitable best-seller.
The predicted best-seller and rise to the heights of fame ensues for Jake. But amidst of his return to glory, Jake constantly angsts about potential exposure by someone in the know of Evan Parker of having stolen the plot. After the book has been published and well-publicized, Jake finally gets an anonymous email accusing him of being a thief. At last, the pulse-throb of this tense, dramatic literary and psychological thriller kicks in. Who’s threatening to reveal Jacob as a plot thief, and what is the true back story of Evan Parker? Jacob races to unmask who’s threatening him and becomes more and more terrified as he learns Evan Parker’s backstory.
Clever twists ensue as the book races to its perfidious ending.
Thanks to NetGalley and Celadon Books for an advanced reader’s copy.