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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Geng, Steve: Thick as Thieves | Main | Printer-friendly printing at book-blog.com »

Smith, Scott: A Simple Plan

  

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Vintage © 1993, 416 pages [amazon]
5 stars

It's a simple premise. What would happen if three men--two brothers and a friend--should stumble on a bag full of money in the woods? Stolen money, you'd have to assume, millions of dollars in non-sequential, hundred-dollar bills--enough that somebody, somewhere, has to be looking for it. Should they keep the cash? Use it to escape from their one-traffic-light town? Call the police? Scott Smith immerses his characters in this moral dilemma of a situation and lets us watch as the ostensibly reasonable plan they agree on leads inevitably, inexorably, to a string of tragic consequences.

[INSET TEXT: Scott Smith immerses his characters in this moral dilemma of a situation and lets us watch as the ostensibly reasonable plan they agree on leads inevitably, inexorably, to a string of tragic consequences.] Smith makes it look easy. In this book as well as in his second novel, The Ruins (see my review), he puts people in a trying situation and records what happens to their characters as they respond to events. The plot of the novel arises naturally from their actions, which follow naturally from the initial set-up. Writing such a book oneself almost seems possible, but of course the simplicity of the story is only apparent.

A Simple Plan is a perfect suspense novel. Smith's protagonist, Hank Mitchell--from whose perspective the story is told--is forever in danger of being found out. The bag of stolen money, stashed precariously under his bed, nearly throbs in the story, Tell-Tale-Heart-like, constantly in our minds as a source of potential trouble for him. Incredibly, Hank remains entirely sympathetic throughout the story. He may do some bad things, but he's still a normal guy caught up in extraordinary circumstances. His responses, if regrettable, make perfect sense given man's natural urge for self-preservation. Readers may insist that they would act otherwise, but Smith makes a good case for the argument that Hank really never has much of a choice.

There is only the one choice: should they keep the money, or call the police?

Do yourself a favor and read this book.

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Comments

1.

are you not aware of the movie? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120324/

2.

Actually, I just rented it from Netflix! I may watch it this afternoon. Have you seen it?

3.

The movie is GREAT; one of my all-time favorites.

4.

This does sound rather intriguing. I'll have to give it a read. Thanks!

5.

Wow. I'm really looking forward to the movie now. David, if you actually read, you can see that you would enjoy this. I kept thinking that this is the sort of plot that would have attracted Hitchcock.

Interestingly, as with Smith's other book, it also kept making me think of Patricia Highsmith, who excelled at building tension from seemingly innocuous circumstances. This connection is interesting, too, because she wrote Strangers on a Train, which of course Hitchcock made into a movie (twice, I think).

6.

Now I'm really intrigued. When you go dropping names like Hitchcock & Highsmith, I become very interested!

Also, Hitch only did Strangers on a Train once to my knowledge. He did The Man Who Knew Too Much twice though.

7.

Hmmm. Maybe I'm thinking of The Lady Vansihes (which she did on a train, I believe) being made twice. Haven't looked this up, I'm just thinking.

8.

Yes, she did indeed vanish on a train, and there was a remake, but it was not directed by Hitchcock. I haven't seen it, but I can't imagine it being good. I've never seen a decent Hitchcock remake.

9.

Though I must say Disturbia was quite good. Not a remake per se but an adaptation.

10.

Is that the one similar to Rear Window? I haven't seen it. You recommend it then?

11.

I enjoyed it. I don't watch enough movies to feel very confident of my critical faculties in that department, but I liked it.

12.

Okay, I finally saw the movie last night, and blogged about it here: http://www.the-deblog.com/2007/09/a-simple-plan-t.html

13.

An old premise, but a powerful one with plenty to be explored. Sounds like compelling reading!

14.

I've just finished Scott Smith's latest effort "The Ruins" - it left me doubting it was by the same author (it was). It's a bloated, turgid, sub-Stephen King doorstop about a group of tedious tourists stuck in a man-eating jungle (groan!). The main problem was not believing a word - it's a very strange departure from everything I enjoyed about "A Simple Plan". (I've just checked reviews for "The Ruins" - oh dear. People seem to like it. I am baffled...!)

15.

Oh, I liked The Ruins. It's true that you have to suspend disbelief to get past the premise, but I didn't have a problem with that. And in fact reading A Simple Plan I was surprised at how similar the two books were. Really, it was just a question of watching people unravel in a difficult situation. It's just the situation that changed.




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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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