I picked up Stash by David Klein on a coworker’s recommendation. It quickly pulled me in and kept me turning pages, even though it’s not the sort of novel I tend to gravitate towards. Here’s the premise:

Stash by David Klein (cover)Gwen, a 30-ish mother of two and wife of a successful pharmaceutical company marketing guy, is looking forward to her weekend away with her family at their cabin in the Adirondacks. The day they are to leave, she drops her kids off at their respective activities and arranges for a friend to pick them up. She then heads downtown to see Jude, an old friend, at the restaurant he owns. Her visit is not a social call; instead, she buys a small bag of pot from Jude, who runs a small side business dealing drugs. Gwen then drives out to a nearby state park, where she smokes half a joint, planning to hang out at the park for a few hours until it’s time to gather the family and head to the cabin.

While she’s enjoying her joint, though, Gwen gets a call from Marlene, the friend who was supposed to pick up Gwen’s kids. Marlene apologizes but says she can’t get the kids after all. So Gwen snuffs out her joint, gets in her car, and carefully starts off down the winding road out of the park. As she rounds a corner and is momentarily blinded by the sun’s glare, another car swerves into her lane, and the two vehicles collide. The cops arrive and find the bag of pot in Gwen’s car, which leads them to test her for drugs. Meanwhile, the other driver — an elderly man who should not have been driving — dies from injuries sustained in the crash. The evidence clearly shows that the other driver was at fault, but because of a recent crackdown on drug activity in town, Gwen is arrested and charged. She’s told the charges might be dropped…if she gives up the name of her dealer. So much for her quiet weekend with her family.

Meanwhile, Gwen’s husband Brian is in a sticky situation at work. His company has been quietly pushing their new drug, which is FDA approved for anxiety, for off-label use as a weight loss drug. When a potentially dangerous side effect surfaces and a prominent physician threatens to expose it, Brian is the one poised to take the fall.

The book is written in third person, alternating between multiple viewpoints: Gwen, Brian, Jude, Jude’s teenage daughter Dana, a police detective, and a few others. As the focal character shifts with each chapter, pieces come together and missing details slide into place. The plot grows ever more complex as the characters tangle themselves up more and more thoroughly.

I kept turning pages because I wanted to know what would happen. The plot is definitely gripping, and the multiple viewpoints are especially effective in building suspense. I did have a few issues:

First, the characters, to me, were completely flat, like they’d been modeled after stereotypes. I didn’t care about any of them, and I never felt like I knew them at all. At first I didn’t like it; I wanted to cheer for one character over another, to be attached to the outcome of their actions. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it kind of works this way. Without attachments to the characters getting in the way, the moral issues the book addresses were the piece that caught my attention. If I’d been wrapped up in hoping for a particular outcome, I wouldn’t have thought so much about the plot and the questions it raised.

Second, I must say, I didn’t love the ending. Everything was too wrapped up and pretty. But I guess the book had to end somehow!

Overall, my two beefs with Stash weren’t enough to turn my opinion of it, and I did enjoy the book. A quick, complicated plot, lots of viewpoints, and interesting moral questions kept me reading, even if my love for the characters did not. As I said, not the sort of book I’m usually drawn to but definitely worth the read!

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