The Plot

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This book made the WSJ's list of the best mysteries of 2021; that's been a semi-reliable source of recommendations in the past, so…

The protagonist is Jacob ("Jake") Finch Bonner, a writer whose first novel was published to moderate acclaim, whose second book garnered no acclaim whatsoever, and third and fourth books were rejected by all publishers. So he's in kind of a professional funk, and he's resorted to teaching at a fiction-writing workshop for aspiring writers with more cash than talent. Jake puts up a brave front, but he's full of self-pity and self-loathing. He's not writing, and nobody cares.

Into this sad existence drops an arrogant student, Evan Parker. Parker claims that he doesn't really need the program, or any tips from a dud like Jake. Because he's got the plot of his novel, and it is sure-fire. After some jousting, Parker tells Jake the plot, and … wow, Jake thinks, this jerk is right. It would be a can't-miss guaranteed hit!

A few years later, Jake's career has continued its downhill progress. When he gets the urge to look up whatever happened to that jerk with the great plot. Whoa, he's dead! And Jake makes a fateful decision…

It's pretty good. Starts off almost as a David Lodge-style satire of marginal academic life, then a tale of wild authorial success and hubris, then a combination of mystery and horror. I'm only giving it 4/5 stars on Goodreads because I saw the Big Twist at the end somewhere around the middle of the book. Long before Jake sees it, anyway. To his eternal regret.

Last Modified 2024-01-17 3:50 PM EDT