Money for Nothing
Donald Westlake
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Money for Nothing
Donald Westlake
Grand Central Publishing
336 pages
March 2004
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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At age twenty-seven and working as a temp, Josh Redmontís financial situation isnít that hot. Then, out of the blue, he receives a check for a thousand dollars in the mail from someone called "United States Agent." Heís surprised, and when all his enquires prove futile, he deposits it in his account. From then on, like clockwork the checks keep coming, even following him as he changes addresses and jobs and generally moves up in the world. Now seven years later, happily married with a wife and kid and a well-paid job in an ad agency, Josh doesnít need the money but mechanically keeps depositing the checks.

One day, on the ferry to work, a man approaches him and a petrified Josh at long last finds out why exactly he was getting those checks. Heís taken their money, and now Josh has no recourse but to do what "United States Agent" tells him to do, even when what heís asked to do can hurt him, his family and his country. As a flabbergasted Josh gradually realizes in how dangerous a pickle he is, caught in a untenable situation so fantastic that he knows no one will believe him, thrown off his stolid and complacent way of life, will he have the courage or even the resourcefulness to do whatís right?

Over the years, author Donald E. Westlake has made quite a name for himself with his hilarious Dortmunder crime caper novels. The readers are exposed to the full force of the authorís unique blend of humor, crime and originality in this story as well. Josh Redmont is perfectly recognizable as Joe Ordinary, a man of todayís times who has no wish to look a gift horse in the mouth. But as they say, there ainít no free lunch, and Joshís comically horrified but convincing reaction when he realizes this evokes pity as well tears of laughter in readers. As the crazy plot winds on, with the story sprouting simultaneously in various directions and seemingly at random in typical Westlake fashion, the readers are kept in a state of supreme suspense until the tale culminates in a grand and befitting finale.

In short, Money for Nothing is witty with an ingrained sense of humor and a satisfying dose of violence and crime, villains and unlikely heroes, and is Westlake at his creative pinnacle.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Rashmi Srinivas, 2004

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