Vlad Eisinger, a journalist at The Wall Street Tribune, is publishing a series of articles about life settlement, a little-known practice that allows senior or terminally-ill people to sell their life insurance policies to private investors. The buyer keeps paying the annual premiums and collects the death benefit when the seller eventually dies. Vlad draws most of his anecdotes from Destin Terrace, a close-knit community in Destin, Fla. Each article – they come out every Tuesday for seven consecutive weeks – brings its share of disturbing revelations: Bruce, the flight attendant, sold his policy in the ‘80s when he was diagnosed with AIDS; Steve, the dentist who purchased Bruce’s policy, is mad at him for not dying; Brian, an ex-doctor, writes up life expectancy reports from his basement; his wife Sharon, a nurse, earns a finder’s fee for each elderly client of hers she convinces to sell their policy.
Dan Siver used to be Vlad’s roommate, back when they were studying comparative literature at Columbia University. Vlad has become a successful journalist, Dan a struggling novelist who lives in Destin Terrace, in the small house he inherited from his mother.
The book goes back and forth between Vlad’s articles and Dan’s observations as his neighbors react to the ever-bigger stories unfolding week after week. The two men also revive a long-running spat about the respective merits of journalism and literature, before a final, unexpected twist.