Evan Stoess, the protagonist of Ted Scofield’s debut thriller, Eat What You Kill, spends twelve years at a private prep school for the overprivileged, the only poor kid on a campus of entitled East Coast progeny who nickname him “Kmart” because of his cheap, ill-fitting blazers and khakis. Meanwhile, back at the trailer park where Evan lives with his mom and his alcoholic stepfather, the kids call him “Richie” because who does he think he is, anyway, bussed to a leafy private campus while they’re stuck in the crappy public school down the road?
Evan’s childhood is essentially an eighteen-year-long beating. He takes blows from the trailer-park kids, from the polished brutes who will go on to run Wall Street, and from his ne’er-do-well father figure, who insists on buying his cheap clothes several sizes too big so there’s room for him to grow into them. “On one occasion, a young, Ivy League English teacher named Mr. Winnifield sarcastically suggested that Evan upgrade his sole blue blazer before the glue gave out and it fell to the ground in patchwork pieces,” writes Scofield, a three-time graduate (B.A., J.D., M.B.A.) of Vanderbilt University.
The years at Ridgewood provide incentive aplenty for Evan to strive for wealth, to prove to his tormenters that he is worthy of them—better, even. He makes it through college and business school on the long shadow of those unhappy memories and ultimately heads to Wall Street. When he discovers an emerging pharmaceutical company whose drug cocktail promises to prevent and even reverse Alzheimer’s, he smells opportunity. His job as a junior analyst is to spot a company worth betting on and make his company millions. If he does, he’ll be able to eat what he kills and take home more money than most people ever dream of. “I want more money,” Evan tells his boss, convincing him to wager the company’s assets on his gamble. “I want what I deserve.” Needless to say, things do not go as planned, and that’s where this breathtaking thriller really begins.
Whether Evan will in fact realize his dream of wealth and fame—and whether he will accept the costs—are some of the novel’s central questions. Especially for this genre, Eat What You Kill is philosophically ambitious and thought-provoking, not to mention well written. Readers can no doubt glimpse Scofield, a former securities lawyer who is now general counsel for Icebreaker Entertainment in New York, through Evan’s sharp wit and precocious wisdom. And fans of Seinfeld and other 1990s pop culture will find buried nuggets (“These pretzels are making me thirsty”) to make them smile, even amid the novel’s murder and mayhem.