Scott B. Smith

A Simple Plan

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A Simple Plan Summary

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A Simple Plan by Scott B. Smith is a 1993 neo-noir crime thriller.

Hank Mitchell, his brother Jacob and Jacob’s friend Lou are riding together in Jacob’s truck when suddenly a fox runs out in the road in front of them. Startled, Jacob loses control of the truck, planting it into a snow bank as his dog tears off after the fox. The three men go after the dog, hiking in the woods for half an hour before they come across a fallen airplane with more than four million dollars cash in hundred-dollar bills in the cockpit beside the pilot, who is dead.

Unsure what to do with such an unsettling finding, the men agree that Hank will hold onto the money for the time being. They decide that, if after six months no one has come looking for the money, it is theirs to keep. After the six-month mark, they will divide the money and each go their separate ways. On their way back, they encounter Carl Jenkins, a local law enforcement officer. Hank decides not to tell him about the money.

Although they had agreed to wait, the men soon become desperate to lay their hands on the money. Jacob is perpetually unemployed and refuses to even attempt to look for a job, assuming that this money will be the solution to all of his problems. Lou is also eager to get his hands on his cut of the money in order to pay off some of his gambling debts. Meanwhile, Hank’s wife Sarah suggests that they replace part of the money where they found it so as not to arouse suspicion should the aircraft be found. Hank decides to return to the woods to replace half a million dollars.

Jacob has an altercation with Mr. Penderson, a local man who is tracking the fox that originally led the men to the discovery of the plane. They attempt to dissuade him from this, but when he proves unmovable, Jacob hits Penderson hard enough to knock him unconscious, and Hank seals the man’s fate. They set up a scene to make it appear as though the man has died in a snowmobiling accident. When Jacob tells Lou what has happened, Lou uses the information as leverage to blackmail Hank into giving him his share of the money early.

Hank promises to divide the money evenly among the men, but he coaxes Lou into confessing to the murder of Mr. Penderson, which he plans to use against him to regain control over the funds and to keep Lou from going totally off the wall. When Lou realizes what is going on, he explodes and becomes violent toward Hank. In an attempt to protect his brother from what he believes is an attack meant to kill him, Jacob shoots Lou.

When Lou’s girlfriend Nancy finds out what has happened, she becomes incensed and tries to shoot Hank. Jacob and Hank kill Nancy as well, seeing it as the only way out of a difficult situation. Hank is aware that things have gone terribly awry and that they have killed so many people in the name of this cursed money. Planning to turn himself in, he makes a phone call to his wife, Sarah to explain the situation as well as his plan. Sarah pleads with Hank, telling him it isn’t too late to save the money. She gives Hank a detailed description of the plan he must carry out in order to save himself.

Hank calls Lou’s landlord Sonny, who at this point knows all about the money. When Sonny arrives at the scene, Hank kills him as well. Once again he stages a crime scene to cover his tracks, making it appear as though Lou arrived home to find Sonny and Nancy in bed together and flew into a violent rage, killing them and then threatening Jacob who had no choice but to kill Sonny for his own protection. Jacob watches Hank stage the scene and cannot contain himself. He is overcome with emotion and can’t stop crying. Hank realizes that Jacob will never be able to stand up to police questioning and that he is too much of a liability at this point. Using Sonny’s shotgun, he shoots and kills his own brother.

Sarah finds out that the money was from a kidnapping and that the pilot did not work alone, he had an accomplice. This man has been in town questioning Carl the police officer about the potential of any planes going down in the area. Carl approaches Hank and asks him to accompany them on their search for the plane. Hank agrees, giving the men directions to the downed aircraft but says he cannot go with them. At this point, the accomplice kills Carl and is then killed by the FBI.