Friday, March 20, 2015

{Review} THE NEVER-OPEN DESERT DINER by James Anderson

ISBN #: 978-0912887104
Page Count: 288
Copyright: February 15, 2015
Publisher: Caravel Mystery Books

(Taken from press release)

Ben Jones, the protagonist of James Anderson's haunting debut novel, The Never-Open Desert Diner (Caravel Books, February, 2015), is on the verge of losing his small trucking company. A single, thirty-eight-year-old truck driver, Ben's route takes him back and forth across one of the most desolate and beautiful regions of the Utah desert.

The orphan son of a Native American father and a Jewish social worker, Ben is drawn into a love affair with a mysterious woman, Claire, who plays a cello in the model home of an abandoned housing development in the desert. Her appearance, seemingly out of nowhere, reignites a decades-old tragedy at a roadside café referred to by the locals as The Never-Open Desert Diner. The owner of the diner, Walt Butterfield, is an embittered and solitary old man who refuses to yield to change after his wife's death.

Ben’s daily deliveries along the atmospheric and evocative desert highway bring him into contact with an eccentric cast of characters that includes: John, an itinerant preacher who drags a life-sized cross along the blazing roadside; the Lacey brothers, Fergus and Duncan, who live in boxcars mounted on cinderblocks; and Ginny, a pregnant and homeless punk teenager whose survival skills make her an unlikely heroine.

Ben’s job as a truck driver is more than a career; it is a life he loves. As he faces bankruptcy and the possible loss of everything that matters to him, he finds himself at the heart of a horrific crime that was committed forty years earlier and now threatens to destroy the lives of those left in its wake.

Ben discovers the desert is relentless in its grip, and what the desert wants, it takes. An unforgettable story of love and loss, Ben learns the enduring truth that some violent crimes renew themselves across generations.

The Never-Open Desert Diner is a unique blend of literary mystery and noir  fiction that evokes a strong sense of place. It is a story that holds the reader and refuses to let go and will linger long after the last page.

Charlene's Review:

Ben, a truck driver, and sole contact for many along his isolated route, is dedicated to delivering packages for his customers and not asking questions. When he accidentally discovers a cello-playing woman hiding in the desert, his life takes a dramatic turn. As he longs to pursue a relationship with the mysterious woman, deadly secrets unfold and he must fight to keep the past from recurring.
The Never-Open Desert Diner is a deftly written novel that transcends any expectations of a debut writer. This is a poignant look at humanity and its adaptation to adverse conditions, within its environment, as well as in life. Mr. Anderson has crafted a story that engages and saddens. The eccentric cast of characters play perfectly together to enrich an already riveting storyline. While some may have not been necessary for the plot to play out, they each added to the mystique of the desert route that set the backdrop of the story.

I was deeply affected by the violence, but even more so, by the human spirit that triumphed over it. This is as much a love story, both romantic and familial, as it is a mystery. I would love to see a story written from the point of view of Walt Butterfield. His character spoke to me in so many ways and left me wanting more. I highly recommend this book. It is haunting and beautifully crafted. I believe it will stay with me for a very long time.

5 out of 5 stars

*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

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