"The place was a kind of odd shrine. Over the years the diner had become a regular rest stop for me as well as a source of fascination and idle speculation. It was always my first stop, even when I had nothing to deliver to Walt. Sometimes it was my last stop, too."
Anderson's debut novel is written with a dry sense of humor. I definitely consider the plot original and the characters between the pages are as colorful as the Utah sunset. I struggled with a rating. I started with four stars but then pulled back to three. However, I want desperately to rate this correctly. Did it entertain me? Yes! Did the protagonist move me? He did. Thank you, Ben Jones! The supporting cast was an original blend of mismatched, misplaced wanderers, all looking to escape a past that is unlikely to catch up to them on lonely Route 117. With the exception of the Lacey brothers, and because of Walt Butterfield, I thought each eccentric character an asset to this mystery. For those reasons, I returned to four stars. So, why did I flip-flop between ratings? Well, here's why this desert mystery left me feeling a bit parched; some portions weren't explained to me. At one pivotal turning point in the storyline, I had to go back a couple of pages to see if I missed something. I do appreciate Anderson's trust in me as a savvy reader to figure out things for myself, and let the story lead me without having to explain every tiny detail like some authors feel it necessary to do. That being said, this story and noir mystery had the potential to blow me away. While I totally get the plot, I only wish Anderson would've taken a bit more time to iron out a few of those mysterious details. However, he did get me in the end. I did gasp in disbelief and I was pretty satisfied with the ending. I'd be willing to travel Route 117 again with James Anderson, only next time, I want to be wowed. Anderson is an excellent storyteller and I know he can knock it out the park...or perhaps, the Utah desert.
James Anderson's short fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared in many magazines and he previously served as publisher and editor in chief of Breitenbush Books. For more book info visit James @ jamesandersonauthor.com.
**I received an ARC from Blogging for Books in exchange for review. Many thanks!
~ Eighth book completed in May Clean Sweep ARC Challenge. ~