Proving the old adage that there's no such thing as the windfall promised by the title, Westlake starts this funny divertissement with an intriguing premise: Mr. American Everyman, young, ambitious, decent, honorable husband and father, has been receiving a check for $1,000 once a month from an unknown benefactor for seven years. Just when Josh Redmont has finally stopped worrying about where the money comes from or what it means, a stranger with a foreign accent approaches him on the Fire Island ferry and clues him in. Therein hangs the tale of who's behind Josh good fortune and what kind of bill has come due for all those tax-free dollars. Unbeknownst to our hapless hero, he's been a "sleeper agent" whose paymaster has awakened him just in time to play a big role in a political assassination. How Josh gets out of a mess he had no idea he was in drives the lively narrative to its breathless conclusion. Westlake is the undisputed master of the caper genre--although Money for Nothing
may not be as deviously convoluted or sidesplittingly comic as some of his earlier novels (The Ax
, Put a Lid On It
), it's well worth the reader's attention and appreciation. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
Prolific MWA Grand Master Westlake's latest novel has neither the engaging characters of his Dortmunder series nor the comic zing of his previous stand-alone, Put a Lid On It (2002), but it does offer an entertaining answer to the timeless debate over whether anything in life is ever truly free. Josh Redmont, a struggling New York office temp, receives a $1,000 check in the mail from United States Agent, a firm he's never heard of and, despite his best attempts, is unable to contact. He decides to deposit the check, and it clears. So begins the biggest mistake of his life, as checks arrive each month for the next seven years, seemingly a tax-free error in his favor. Then one day a man on the Fire Island ferry tells Redmont he's from U.S. Agent and states, "You are now active." By now a successful advertising executive with a wife and young son, Redmont finds his life turned upside-down as he's drawn into a terrorist plot to assassinate a visiting dignitary. His only hope is a disgruntled operative, Nimrin, who originally "recruited" him as a mole or sleeper agent without his knowledge. With time running out, Redmont must find two other moles recruited by Nimrin and turn the tables on the terrorists. Westlake creates a fascinating scenario, yet fails to fully develop Redmont and his fellow players. Some of the lesser characters are often more interesting than Redmont, who for all his charm and wit still comes across as a rather dull yuppie.
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