Sunday, June 12, 2016

Review: "The Never-Open Desert Diner" by James Anderson

Working a delivery route on a remote stretch of Utah highway, Ben Jones is just an eccentric character as the residents that he serves. Ben's cash is running low from the route that isn't profitable enough to pay his bills. The first half of the book gives an interesting peek into the lives of those societal outcasts, such as Walt who owns a diner that hasn't been officially open since his wife died, a preacher who carries a cross through the desert everyday, and a mysterious woman squatting in an abandoned house in a never-developed subdivision.

The woman, Claire, is hiding out avoiding her husband, whom she is in the process of divorcing. Though she at first threatens Ben to stay away, he's drawn to the mystery of her after seeing her play the cello through the papered up windows of the abandoned house. When people start snooping around the desert, he suspects it is Claire they're after, but he can't give her up--he's falling in love with her.

I absolutely loved the first half of the book because of the detail and complexity of the residents of the desert. I enjoyed reading how each one had a particular way of interacting with Ben, and he respected and understood the residents in a way that no outsider ever could. When he met the preacher along the road, they'd pretend to smoke a cigarette together. Walt, the owner of the diner always could seem to sense Ben's presence and was never particularly nice, but Ben considered Walt his best friend.

As Ben learns more through his customers and a police interrogation, things start to get muddled for Ben as he tries to sort out the right course of action.The second half of the book definitely holds more surprises, but for all the shock value they provided, it was ultimately not as interesting to me as the first part. The mysteries are resolved through an information dump at the end to explain all of the loose connections, which was not engaging or rewarding, especially after my initial excitement with this novel.

It's a decent read for anyone who likes in-depth looks at unique characters, combined with some mystery and suspense, but some parts were a little too dark for me.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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