Hilary is a divorced mother of one, a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who is finally starting to show a little bit of progress after a couple of years in a very special school that costs $50,000 a year. Her ex is a nice guy but completely caught up in his new family, and not doing his share of expenses. Meanwhile, the housing crisis means her mortgage is worth more than her house, and she gets laid off from her job. She begs everyone she can think of and schemes like crazy to try to figure out a way to stay afloat and keep her son at the special needs school where he’s doing so well. When, one night, a car in front of her veers off the road to avoid a deer and crashes into a tree, Hilary runs down to help. She finds the driver dead, and next to him on the passenger seat, a carrier bag full of half a million dollars in crisp $100 bills.
What would you do? The man’s dead, there’s no one else on the scene yet. Hilary takes the money, only to find that in doing so, she has opened up a can of worms. Someone else knew about the money, and that person is determined to get it back.
Everything to Lose tries to imagine a normal woman in extraordinary circumstances, although I couldn’t really relate to the level Hilary lives at, with her enormous mansion, housekeeper, venti Starbucks drinks, pedicures and exercise classes. (I mean really, if you’re living at the edge of broke, surely you cut down somewhere? This really took down a lot of my sympathy for the character) Hilary figures out a way to parlay the money into useable chunks that won’t set off any alarms, pays off her bills and tuition, and figures she’s safe since she gave a false name to the second man who arrived on the scene. But she didn’t count on the determination of the guy coming after her.
By going to the funeral of the man killed in the car crash, Hilary ends up involving his son in her search for the truth about the money. Patrick is a tough Staten Island cop with his own money worries. He is working to rebuild houses in the neighbourhood where he grew up, recently destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. He and his dad have been working to help a friend of the family, an elderly woman whose entire life–every memento, every picture, every piece of china, every antique–has been swept out to sea, yet has had something returned to her. It’s in that neighbourhood that the connection lies that will link all of them to a crime committed more than 20 years ago, something someone will go to any lengths to keep hidden.
Everything to Lose touches on mental illness and how that can play into violence. A powerful figure who is also a psychopath, who has learned to hide this and can mostly keep it under control, committed a crime that could return to haunt him, even as he has successfully hidden other crimes. Two innocents are trying to bring him to justice but it all goes wrong and a lot of people die. Hilary worries about her son Brandon, with his Asperger’s Syndrome and subsequent lack of empathy and emotion. Will he, too, turn easily to violence?
I enjoyed the basic plot of this novel and it was gripping and fast-paced. In the end, however, it was too violent for my taste.