by Jonathan Stone
3 out of 5 moving vans.
I noticed the ads for this on Goodreads and thought the premise sounded interesting, but I wasn’t in any great hurry to check it out. Then it was one of those super cheap deals on my Kindle so I figured I’d give it a shot.
And that’s how they get you. Well played, Amazon. Well played indeed.
This does have a great hook for a story. Seventy-two year old Stanley Peke and his wife Rose have accumulated a house full of valuables and memories over the years, but they want to move to a smaller more manageable place in California so they hire a moving company to transport their stuff across the country. After almost everything they own has been packed, loaded and driven off, the Pekes learn that they’ve been the victim of a clever scheme in which a gang of thieves show up before the real movers and take off with an entire house worth of loot.
Next time just buy your friends some pizza and beer to con them into helping you, Stanley.
Most people would cash their insurance check and grieve for the loss of the mementos that can’t be replaced, but Stanley isn’t your average silver fox. He spent his childhood hiding from Nazis in the woods of Poland and came to America after the war with no family and not a penny to his name. The theft of the things he spent a lifetime acquiring as part of his building a family is something that he refuses to abide and when he sees a chance to track down the thief who led the crew Stanley decides to get it all back without involving the cops. However, the ringleader Nick had his own hard-luck upbringing as an orphaned street kid which has left with a ruthless nature and the firm belief that whatever he steals is now his so the clash between the two strong-willed men become about more than who ends up with the stuff.
This is marketed as a thriller, and there are definitely a lot of those elements and enough action to make it part of that category. But it actually doesn’t read like a thriller for most of the book. A large part of it is spent inside Stanley’s head as he reflects on his past, how it shaped him and the life he’s lived since. Stone was far more concerned with Stanley and Nick as characters than how the plot would be resolved.
That makes the book more ‘literary’ (For lack of a better term.) than what I was expecting, and at first I was pleasantly surprised at the many facets that Stone was exploring with Stanley about being a Jewish survivor of the Nazis who came to America and lived the ultimate immigrant success story.
The problem is that this is all gone over a little too much with clear conclusions drawn and laid out for the reader. Stone wants to make sure we understand every angle and by kicking over every rock he really hasn’t left the reader anything to think about. It’s not a case of full-on anvil dropping (Although the ending is pretty on-the-nose.), but there’s little sub-text left by the end of it
So it’s got the pieces of a good crime story with an interesting lead character that was aiming to be a bit more than your average thriller, but it is so concerned with making sure that we got the point that it laid out all it’s themes like a road map which left me feeling like someone who considered me slightly stupid had been slowly explaining himself to me for several hours.
Also posted at Goodreads.