Marcus Sakey Recommended

When: Thu., Sept. 18, 7 p.m. 2008

"You find a chest of gold, you better know there's a monster guarding it," says Jack Witkowski, the monster in Marcus Sakey's third crime thriller, Good People (Dutton). The good people he's explaining the facts of life to are Tom and Anna Reed, a couple of "taxpayers," as a cop calls them, Lincoln Square home owners living at the limit of their paychecks and credit but doing OK. Then they happen upon the cash Witkowski and his gang ripped off in a practically victimless crime--robbing a high-end drug dealer and the smarmy Hollywood star he's selling to--and they take it. The coils begin to tighten as armed robbers, drug dealers, and police circle the hapless duo to take it back. Sakey's real skill is in plotting, as he demonstrates with the dollar amount he chose for his MacGuffin. Four hundred grand is enough to keep the Reeds in the lifestyle to which they're accustomed without worry, so it's worth fighting for. But it's not nearly enough to allow them to disappear off the grid entirely, so fight they must if they want to keep it. Sakey's not as good at drawing characters--Witkowski is somewhat complex and therefore attractive, but the Reeds are utterly generic and banal. Though maybe that's the point--they're John and Jane Q. Public learning to fight back against the predators. As Anna says to Tom as they plot against Witkowski, "We're not evil people, baby. We're just in over our head." --Patrick Daily

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