The outcome of this nightmare version of the American dream is never a big mystery, since the novel is based on the 1992 kidnapping and murder of an Exxon executive by a debt-ridden New Jersey couple. The players are familiar as well: Criminal mastermind Theo is a serial failure who wants too much for too little effort; wife Colleen is a fading beauty who fantasizes about making it big with Goodlife, an Amway-like home-products business; Theo’s father, Malcolm, is a retired cop unable to admit just how wrong his only child has gone. Though predictable, the tale never becomes ponderous. It’s a thriller that stakes its chills on moral suspense—and hits the jackpot. A-
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