Burke Devore is a middle-aged middle manager at a paper mill, who’s been laid off for some time. There are too many others like him and they’re beating him out for the few positions in his field. In desperation, he decides to eliminate the competition by placing a fake job advertisement for others with similar skills and by killing them off.
Westlake is known for a variety of crime novels, including the light-hearted, humorous Dortmunder books. There’s humor here, but in a very dark vein, and social commentary too. Devore isn’t obviously a villain or a psychopath, but a man who’s committed himself to a path that he knows is wrong, which he intends to see through. He’s struggling to stay in the middle class and to provide for his family. The book is almost 20 years old, but the white-collar desperation is all too current.