Alton, the main character in this novel, has got himself into serious financial difficulties, despite working in finance and living an extravagant lifestyle with a nice house, a Porsche and a boat. He has stolen large sums of money from client accounts and is about to be discovered so he decides to die. This will involve his disappearance, assumed to have fallen overboard from his yacht, and his escape to Costa Rica or some similar country where he can go unnoticed with enough money to live a wealthy life. His wife and child, Nicole and Clara, will receive a massive insurance settlement enabling them to continue to live well and he also imagines that, sometime in the future, the family might be reunited in Latin America.
In some areas, this plan is very well developed. Money has been left in various accessible deposit boxes and Alton knows what he intends to do. However, it all goes wrong, seriously wrong.
It is understandable that he would miss his wife and child but how he treats them is unforgivable. Clara may be pleased that her father is not drowned and at the bottom of the sea but he is not exactly honest with her and then deserts her all over again. Nicole turns out to have a developing relationship with another rather unpleasant character called Davis and this flowers after her husband’s disappearance and the funeral wake. It is something unanticipated by Alton and he cannot really cope with the realisation.
Eventually, the dead man kidnaps his daughter, flees, realises what he’s doing is impossible and decides to return her to her mother. Once a meeting is fixed, it seems a possibility that Nicole and Davis are planning an additional ploy and intending to make sure that he is really dead so they can collect the money. In the end, this isn’t required because while fussing around over what to do next Alton is run over and the book ends with him in hospital ruminating over his future.
So, it is a strange story with some quite unpleasant characters apart from the poor daughter. It rolls along with some interesting diversions but it soon becomes clear that Alton is not capable of delivering on his plans in spite of dying successfully and the insurance company is refusing to pay out without a body. It then gets a bit messier!
There is a touch in all this of The Postman Always Rings Twice or Double Indemnity and it looks at one time as if Davis could be intended to be the fall guy but that never quite happens. It might also be possible that Alton finds himself in some kind of metaphorical Purgatory seeing the awful consequences of his actions and then being undone by them. In the end, it was the unkindness to his own daughter which turns me completely against him. What next? Presumably a long jail sentence and perhaps he could be reformed and, perhaps, Nicole would take him back but that all seems a bit unlikely and maybe the ending of the novel is a bit sudden and unwrapped for its own good as if the author isn’t sure how it should end either.