Everything to Lose
I have to tell you before we go any further that I am a sucker for the driving plot of EVERYTHING TO LOSE by Andrew Gross. Yes, it’s been done before --- Scott Smith’s A SIMPLE PLAN immediately springs to mind --- but it’s always fun to put a twist on a theme, which Gross does here. Actually, he puts two twists on it. Maybe three or four. Anyway, I loved every word of the book as I tore through it in one sitting.
Someone finds money that does not belong to him or her under circumstances in which no one knows about it and keeps it. It’s a theme that works well because the immediate question it very quietly raises is “what would YOU (the reader) do?” Regardless of how you would answer that, Gross fairly quickly makes you understand and sympathize with what Hilary Blum would do.
Blum is the divorced mother of a young boy with autism whose ex-husband’s construction company went belly-up, and he is unable to make child support payments. As a result, she is underwater on the mortgage and property taxes on their palatial home, and behind on her son’s tuition at the special school, when she witnesses a fatal accident that takes place on a deserted stretch of road. The motorist involved dies in the crash; while attempting to aid him, Blum discovers a satchel with enough money in it to solve all of her problems. She hides it near the scene of the accident, and spends the next several days agonizing over whether or not to take it.
"Yes, it’s been done before...but it’s always fun to put a twist on a theme, which Gross does here. Actually, he puts two twists on it. Maybe three or four. Anyway, I loved every word of the book as I tore through it in one sitting."
When she loses her job, the money seems like a gift from heaven just waiting to be taken. So she does. Blum isn’t a dizzy suburbanite, by any means, and knows how to dole out the money in dribs and drabs without attracting attention. That, of course, doesn’t prevent the “rightful” owner of the money from methodically tracking down Blum and attempting to get the money back by utilizing the services of the type of guy you can immediately picture in your mind.
There are a number of interesting subplots as well, including an NYPD cop who has some murky involvement with the Ukrainian mob and Blum’s post-marital situation, given that her ex-husband is all but homeless yet can somehow scrape together the coin to take a skiing trip. Gross’s talent shines through by making Blum a less than totally sympathetic character for whom we can still cheer. Or at least hope that she makes it to the end of the book.
Gross, in what seems to be a short period of time, has built up an enviable backlist both on his own and as a co-writer with James Patterson. He may have written better books than EVERYTHING TO LOSE (I’ll leave that for others to decide), but right now this one is my favorite of his to date. See if you agree. Even if you don’t, you’ll still enjoy this wild ride.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 24, 2014