A Simple Plan (novel)

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For other uses, see A Simple Plan (disambiguation).
A Simple Plan
First edition
Author Scott Smith
Country United States
Language English
Genre Thriller
Publisher Knopf
Publication date
August 31, 1993
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages 335 pp
ISBN 0-679-41985-3
OCLC 27187407
813/.54 20
LC Class PS3569.M5379759 S57 1993

A Simple Plan is a 1993 thriller novel by Scott Smith. The New York Times review said the book had "emotional accuracy with an exceptionally skilled plot." A film adaptation, directed by Sam Raimi, was released in 1998; according to the Times review, the novel is so dark that the story was adjusted to soften the ending.[1]


The story is set in a small town in northern Ohio that is snow-covered throughout the winter. The narrator is Hank Mitchell, an accountant and family man. On New Year's Eve, Hank and his elder brother Jacob set out to visit their parents' graves, accompanied by Lou, Jacob's only friend. When a fox runs in front of Jacob's truck, he swerves and crashes into a ditch. Jacob's dog chases the fleeing fox into a nature preserve. The three men go after the dog and find a crashed plane; inside the plane is the dead pilot and a gym bag with $4.4 million in $100 bills.

Hank wants to turn the money over to the authorities, but Jacob and Lou, both unemployed, want to keep it. Hank's compromise is that he will hold onto the money until after the plane is discovered in the spring. If there is any mention of the missing money, he will burn it; otherwise, after six months, they will split it equally and separately leave town.

Hank's wife, Sarah, accepts the idea, at first reluctantly, then enthusiastically. The following day, at Sarah's suggestion, Hank and Jacob return to the plane and plant five hundred thousand dollars in the cockpit. A curious neighbor sees the tracks in the snow and Jacob, in a panic, hits and apparently kills the man. When Hank returns, and sees that the man is still breathing, he suffocates him.

Having racked up gambling debts in anticipation of his share of the money, Lou tries to blackmail Hank for his third of the money ahead of schedule. At Sarah's urging, Hank and Jacob con Lou into saying on tape that he killed the neighbor; in an ensuing scuffle, Lou and his girlfriend are both killed. Hank stages the deaths as a domestic dispute, murdering a man next door in the process. Jacob makes it clear that he is uncomfortable with the set-up, so Hank shoots and kills his brother. The police, the media, and the townspeople all accept Hank's explanation of the carnage.

Later, Hank buys a condo at an auction, which turns out to be a scam. Having lost the majority of their savings, they need the airplane money more than ever.

Soon afterward, Hank learns that the FBI is looking for a lost plane with $4.4 million in ransom money on board. When both the town sheriff and the remaining kidnapper are killed in the search for the plane, Sarah believes that they finally are home free. But Hank, called in for questioning, learns that the serial number of every tenth bill had been recorded. If the money is spent, it can be traced.

Sarah tells Hank that she has already spent one of the bills at a convenience store, and he goes there to steal it back. In a fight with the cashier, Hank kills the man with a machete. When an elderly woman demands to be let into the store, he kills her as well. Hank flees with the bill and is never suspected.

Hank goes home and burns the money over Sarah's protests. In the epilogue, Sarah has a baby boy, whom they name Jacob. A few weeks after the birth, their daughter nearly drowns in a wading pool and suffers permanent brain damage. Hank and Sarah accept this as punishment for their crimes. Hank narrates that he pictures his brother Jacob from time to time, because only this memory makes him feel human.


  1. ^ Kamiya, Gary (July 30, 2006). "Welcome to the Jungle". The New York Times. Retrieved June 17, 2012.