The Ax by Donald E. Westlake
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The following is taken from last December news: "Profits fall 39%, 11,000 jobs cut, [...] bringing the firm's layoffs to 20,000 employees." My comment: The cuts are needed to ensure that all executives get new private planes as Christmas bonuses. The 20,000 former employees will get a chance to enroll in a retraining program as their Christmas bonuses. Donald Westlake's "The Ax" is about middle-class resentment of corporate downsizing, about a hard-working man's anger at the fat cat executives and the stockholders. Ooops, I forgot; it is also a crime novel, perhaps a bit unusual - it is a guide how to kill people.
Burke Devore was laid off from his managerial position in a paper mill. He has now been unemployed for well over one year. With house payments, kids in college, whatever money he had saved is running out, despite generous severance package and his wife's part-time jobs. New job does not materialize so Burke takes the matter in his own hands and decides to kill all his competitors for the dream job in a successful paper company. Idiotic premise? Perhaps, but so what? Much less idiotic than in most bestsellers.
This is a well-written, very fast, easy, and smooth read - I spent less than three hours reading the novel. However, on the final reflection, it is an empty book - other than the powerful anti-capitalist sentiment, there is nothing there. Oh, maybe a little bit on how easy (or how difficult, depending on one's point of view) is to kill people.
And I love the title! I so wish I had a gift of writing reviews as short as that.
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