Jake Bonner is a writer who was promising when he was young, and published one successful novel, but has failed to come up with another. He is teaching writing at a low-level MFA program when he meets Evan Parker, an arrogant and annoying student. Parker brags about the great novel he will write, and the plot he has discovered that is guaranteed success. He is very protective of his plot, and won’t share it with the other students. Parker does submit the first chapter to Bonner, his advisor. Submitting samples of your writing is, after all, part of the program.
Jake has to agree that the plot is darn good, and quite gripping, and he remembers it long after the program is over. Several years later, Jake discovers accidentally, that Parker is dead. Actually, his whole family is dead. Jake is desperate for a successful book, and thinks there would be no harm in borrowing Parker’s unique plot. After all, Parker wouldn’t share his plot with anyone, so nobody would recognize it.
Without too many spoilers, things get quite complicated from there. Jake finds himself living the good life until someone begins to threaten him, ready to bring down his house of cards.
This is a twisty, complicated literary thriller and it is hard to put down. Korelitz is able to build suspense throughout the book, telling both Parker’s story and Jake’s, a double-edged sword that threatens both Jake’s sanity and his life.