Thursday, January 28, 2010

GOOD PEOPLE - Marcus Sakey

FIRST LINE: "The smile was famous."

Tom and Anna Reed are trying desperately to have a baby. They've tried everything to have a child of their own. Now they are up to their eyeballs in debt from the medical interventions and the stress is wearing on their marriage.

Meanwhile, their renter in the other half of their duplex dies while making instant coffee. The kettle on the stove starts a grease fire and in the process of extinguishing the fire, Tom and Anna discover the man has stashed $370,000 throughout his kitchen: in cookie boxes, flour sacks, crackers. The man doesn't seem to have any family or friends and the Reeds think this money could be the answer to all their problems, so they discreetly stash the money before the police show up to investigate the man's death. What Tom and Anna quickly discover, however, is that the money isn't the answer to their prayers, it's their worst nightmare.

If GOOD PEOPLE doesn't make you seriously consider your own ethics, there isn't much that will. Listening to this book, I could only hope that I would never covet ANYTHING enough to steal and deceive, but I don't know. The society we live in values wealth and prosperity. And we're often convinced that we NEED things when really we do not. GOOD PEOPLE is not only a heart-pounding, page-turning, thriller; it's a reminder to appreciate what we have instead of taking it for granted.

What completely astounds me about Sakey's writing is the attention to seemingly minor details. Those seemingly minor details speak oceans. After Tom and Anna encountered an especially traumatic event, Tom is replacing a heating vent cover:

"A final twist, and the cover was in place. For a moment he badly wanted to unscrew it, take it off, and then put it back on again. To repeat the process all day long."
Those three sentences say more about Tom's state than anything either character can express in dialogue. These kinds of details infuse GOOD PEOPLE with a realism that connects the reader to the action. These aren't superheros or secret agents; they are you and me and "Everyman" who has covers on their heating vents. The attention to detail takes GOOD PEOPLE from a great thriller to an amazing thriller.

If you haven't connected with a Marcus Sakey thriller, they receive my highest recommendation. I suggest you check one out. I checked out GOOD PEOPLE on audio book from Brilliance. It's read by two individuals: Joyce Bean and Dan John Miller. I have always appreciated audio books where a male and female read together. It's far less distracting when the male voices aren't especially effeminate or the females don't sound like men in drag. I did, however, wonder if Joyce's reading didn't contribute to my frustration with Anna. And when I say that I don't mean I was frustrated with how she was created or characterized, but rather I was frustrated with ANNA. She was so alive to me that I had arguments with her in my car as I listened. And I believe more than anything that I was most afraid that I could end up that blind and selfish if put in similar circumstances. So, I do think Joyce Bean perfectly blended with the concept Sakey was trying to portray through this character. It's powerful.

GOOD PEOPLE is available from Dutton in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0-525-95084-4), from ONYX in mass market paperback (ISBN: 978-0-451-41274-4) and from Brilliance on audio (ISBN: 978-1-423-36688-1)


Kay January 28, 2010 at 9:05 AM  

Thanks for featuring this book, Jen. I have not read any Marcus Sakey books, but will put them on my wish list. You're so great at pointing out authors that I've missed.

Jenn's Bookshelves January 28, 2010 at 9:25 AM  

Based on the gazilion (yes, that's an acutal number!) recommendations I've received based on this book, I've bumped it up higher in my TBR stack!

Christine January 28, 2010 at 9:51 AM  

I have THE BLADE ITSELF in my que right now. I'll be adding GOOD PEOPLE to my wish list. Great review, Jen!

And I agree that there is nothing more distracting as when the reader does a poor impersonation of the opposite sex. I've turned off a couple of books when I just couldn't get past that. On the whole, IMO, the men do a better woman's voice than the women do a man's voice.

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