Review

Good People

by Marcus Sakey

Sometimes it is the simple plot that grabs you the most
effectively. I love complex ideas in novels, ones that present
challenging twists and turns that keep you thinking and keeping
track of the who, what, when and where. It’s difficult,
however, to beat a simple, direct idea that is so sharply focused
with laser intensity that it burns itself into your brain so deeply
that you can’t get it out of your head. That is what one
encounters with Marcus Sakey’s new book.

GOOD PEOPLE has a simple enough premise. Four bad guys --- Jack,
Bobby, Marshall and Will --- are involved in a robbery that quickly
goes bad. Bobby winds up dead, and Will cuts out on his partners
with the money. Will subsequently overdoses on drugs and dies in
his rented duplex. His landlords, Tom and Anna Reed, find his
lifeless body and discover the money. They keep it. And all hell
breaks loose.

Let’s start with Tom and Anna. You know them. You may even be
them. They are overextended, up to their eyeballs in debt and
barely hanging on, and undergoing extensive fertility treatments
that have failed four times and make sex an obligation rather than
a recreation. Sakey nails them so well, so painfully, that you
almost feel like an intruder in their lives. When they find the
money --- and the method by which this occurs is worth the price of
admission all by itself --- it’s like manna from heaven.

And the way the Reeds convince themselves that no one will ever
know is note for note pitch-perfect. They report Will’s death
to the police but don’t let on about the money, following the
old theory that telling just enough of the truth will keep them
safe. They pay off their debts, try another baby-making round, and
still have plenty of benjamins left over.

There is only one problem. Someone does know about the
money. Jack and Marshall are still out there, and both of them ---
especially Jack --- are seething over what was done. They are
looking for Will, turning over every rock they can to find him. And
when Tom and Anna get a bit of unwelcome publicity about the
gruesome discovery of the dead body on their property, Jack quickly
figures out that while Will may be gone, the money isn’t and
that, in all probability, Tom and Anna have it. Jack wants the cash
but is also looking to vent all of this serious anger he has over
what happened. Tom and Anna are as good a target as any.

All of this would be more than enough to land GOOD PEOPLE on the
top of your “must read” pile. But what is really
striking is the manner in which Sakey documents step by step the
Reeds’ slow slide into disaster. One minute they’re
like Uncle Scrooge, rolling around in their money yelling
“Wheee!” The next minute, not so much. By the time they
realize that maybe they should get straight with the police (or
with Jack, or with somebody) and turn the money in, it’s way
too late. And it doesn’t take too long to get to “way
too late.” But even more than this, the book raises some
subtle questions about greed and, more importantly, appreciating
those blessings that one has --- and how easy it is to lose it
all.

GOOD PEOPLE is a great story, well told on its own terms, but it is
also beneath its surface a brilliant cautionary tale that will
quietly resonate with you for some time after you finish reading.
It is simply not to be missed.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

Good People
by Marcus Sakey

  • Publication Date: August 14, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0525950842
  • ISBN-13: 9780525950844