Title: The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Publisher: Celadon Books
Genre: Contemporary, Domestic Mystery
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: C
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Hailed as “breathtakingly suspenseful,” Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.
Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written—let alone published—anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot.
Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that—a story that absolutely needs to be told.
In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.
As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz is a slow-burning domestic mystery.
Jake Bonner’s life has been in a slow decline since achieving a modicum of success with his first novel. While teaching a creative writing class at an obscure college to make ends meet, Jake’s student Parker Evans eventually reveals the plot of the book he is working on. Jake realizes Parker’s arrogant bragging about his future success is on the mark. Yet to his knowledge, the book has never been released. With his life continuing its downward spiral, Jake indulges in a bit of internet spying on his former student. Much to his surprise, Parker died not long after they met. In a moment he comes to regrets, Jake appropriates Parker’s storyline and as predicted, the book is a HUGE hit. But when he receives an e-mail accusing him of being a thief, Jake tries to identify who is harassing him before he is publicly disgraced.
Jake has become a defeatist in the years since his first book is published. Although he denies writer’s block is a thing, his latest work in progress has been languishing for many months. Jake turns to on-line editing in addition to teaching, but he eventually has trouble making rent. After “borrowing” Parker’s plot, Jake’s success is a double-edged sword as he fears someone will find out his secret. Just as his life is taking an unexpectedly upward turn, Jake begins receiving the threats he fears will publicly ruin him.
The Plot is an intriguing domestic mystery. Despite a very unique premise, the pacing for the first half of the novel is very slow. Jake gives off a defeated air until he finds success with his pilfered plot. With much to lose if the truth is revealed, he frantically tries to figure out who is targeting him. Astute readers will most likely ascertain the person’s identity long before the increasingly anxious lead protagonist. Jean Hanff Korelitz brings this unevenly paced domestic mystery to a somewhat disappointing conclusion.