Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Good People by Marcus Sakey

What would you do if you found $400,000?

For Tom and Anna Reed, this isn't merely a thought exercise, but an actual decision they have to make. The Reeds are your average American couple - mid-30's, trying to have a child, and in debt up to their eyeballs. To help pay the mortgage on their Chicago home, they rent a basement apartment to a man they barely know. One night, they respond to a fire alarm downstairs and find their tenant dead. In the process of putting out the fire, they stumble upon almost $400,000 in cash.

The tenant has had no family or friends visit him in the months he rented the space, so they figure it's OK to take the cash as their own. Little do they realize the cash comes from a heist the dead man pulled off. Now his associates, a nasty drug dealer, and the cops are all breathing down their necks.

I'm a huge fan of Sakey's (after reading his first book) and he's done another fine job with Good People. The characters all feel real and have real reactions. Our protagonists are two ordinary people thrown into a world of thieves and murderers by one bad decision. Their terror at having their lives thrown upside down is palpable.

Sakey raises more questions than you'd normally find in a thriller. At the start of the book, Tom and Anna are "good people". They take money that doesn't belong to them, but still consider themselves good. They lie to the cops. They lie to the thieves. They essentially serve up on a silver platter a man to be executed. But, like a lot of people in the modern world, they are blind to their own hypocrisy and stick to their moral superiority. These are folks who, at the end of the story, perform heroic actions, but are themselves not heroic.

Good People is a solid thriller, with more heft than normally found in the genre, told by a master stylist.


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