Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Mystery and Intrigue at the Never-Open Desert Diner

This is a mystery novel unlike virtually any other--original, and captivating with a very intriguing cast of characters. At the center of the book is Ben Jones, a thirty-eight year-old trucker who runs a one-man outfit, hauling freight up and down an isolated highway in the middle of the Utah desert. 

The illegitimate son of a Jewish mother and and American Indian father, Ben lives alone, has no friends to speak of, and is at the end of his rope financially. He hasn't made a profit in years, if ever; he's drowning in debt, and the finance company is about to repossess his truck and put him out of business. But in spite of it all, Ben can't bring himself to abandon the route and the odd collection of desert rats who make up his customer list. It's his life, and it's all he's got.

Principal among his customers is Walt Butterfield, the owner of the Well-Known Desert Diner. Walt served his last meal years ago and then abruptly closed the restaurant. Fading billboards advertising the place can still be seen along the highway and occasionally an unsuspecting tourist will pull in to find the place closed, but the locals know it as the Never-Open Desert Diner. 

Walt, like many of the others who choose to live in this beautiful but remote part of the world, is a hard man of few words. And, like many of the others along Ben's route, more than a few mysteries surround him.

Just as Ben is approaching the end of his rope financially, a mysterious woman appears in the desert and uproots the lives of both Ben and Walt. Ben is strongly attracted to the woman, but as he becomes entangled in her life he finds himself enmeshed in a mystery that dates back years and that almost inevitably is going to put him is serious danger.

To say much more would be to give away too much. Suffice it to say that this is one of those books that draws you in slowly. It takes a while to figure out exactly where the story is going, but that's not really a problem. While you're figuring it out, you're perfectly content to ride along with Ben and watch the tale unfold. James Anderson tells a great story and does so beautifully. It's a book and a group of characters that will remain with the reader long after you've turned the last page and put it back on the shelf.

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