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Short Take: The Plot

In general, I shy away from contemporary psychological thrillers. But Jean Hanff Korelitz’s new book, The Plot, initially intrigued me with a killer premise and being about writers writing, a favorite of mine. When Cindy read it and thought it might be one of the smallish category of books we both like, I decided to give it a try. The Plot centers on Jake, an author whose debut was a success he has struggled ever since to match. Now, depressed and teaching at a low-residency and even lower status MFA program, he meets Evan, an annoyingly arrogant student in his class. Evan reluctantly tells him in confidence about the premise of the novel he’s working on, and Jake knows Evan will have a hit on his hands. However, after several years pass and Jake never sees Evan’s book come out, he discovers that Evan has died without publishing. How can Jake resist using Evan’s plot to finally write himself back into the spotlight? Jake thinks he’s gotten away with it, and is on the Seattle leg of his never-ending book tour more than a year later, when the first threatening email shows up in his in-box. Jean Hanff Korelitz has an insightful dry humor as she describes the ups and downs of Jake’s writing journey, and gives the reader an inside look at the publishing industry. I did try to unravel the mystery as I was reading, but Korelitz cleverly kept me guessing until close to the end. I also liked that excerpts from Jake’s novel, Crib, are interspersed in the second half so the reader gets a story within a story. The Plot was my “Mystery or Crime” Book Bingo square and I might give contemporary thrillers more of a chance in the future. This would also be a great book club book because there’s so much to discuss!

— Lori