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Money For Nothing    by Donald E. Westlake order for
Money For Nothing
by Donald E. Westlake
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2003)

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* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

Josh Redmont was twenty-seven and listed with a temp agency when the first check for one thousand dollars arrived. A month later, another check arrived for the same amount, and the following month another. He called the phone number on the check several times, but there was no answer. The address on the check was incomplete, so he couldn't get in touch with the issuer, the United States Agency, and anyway, the money came in handy, even after he graduated to a permanent job as an account rep with an advertising agency.

Every time he moved, even after he married, the checks followed him around, and although he no longer really needed the money, it still came in handy. Then, seven years later, waiting for the ferry to Fire Island to join his wife and child for the weekend, a stranger came up to him and said, 'I am from the United States Agency ... You are now active.' He also gave Josh a little black book, which was for a bank account in the Cayman Islands, with a deposit of $40,000.00. It turns out that the United States Agency is a front for a splinter group of Russian spies, left jobless by the collapse of the Russian Empire, and setting up shop on their own account.

Josh is drawn willy-nilly into helping them more and more, until he finds himself entangled in a plot to assassinate a visiting head of state. At his wits' end, he finds another conscripted spy, a small-time actor in an off-Broadway theater, who comes up with some ideas on how they can escape from the trap, which more and more seems to have been designed to catch them. Although Josh seems to be a somewhat helpless participant, in the end he manages to outwit the spies, foil their plot, and go back to living happily with his family, with a few perks thrown in.

Westlake has a knack for comic characterization, and amusing incidents, and this book has both in abundance. Not perhaps one of his very best efforts, but an amusing concept well carried out that makes for good reading and happy readers.
Note: This novel will be available in May 2003.

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