Review: The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
A Rapid Review
Publisher: Crown | PRH Audio, 12 hours | March 2016
Format: Hardcover, Audio | Rating: 5 stars
A singularly compelling debut novel, about a desert where people go to escape their past, and a truck driver who finds himself at risk when he falls in love with a mysterious woman.
Ben Jones is an independent truck driver along Route 117, a remote area in the Utah desert. There is not much out there to speak of. There is Walt’s roadside diner that hasn’t opened in 20 years following a tragic incident, and Ben’s customers, most of whom prefer not to be noticed. Everyone in the desert has their secrets.
Ben’s life is uneventful until the day he finds a woman playing a cello in an abandoned building. It’s clear she is running from something or someone. Ben’s instincts tell him not to get involved with her, but he is drawn in anyway. Soon Ben becomes part of a deadly scenario.
I enjoyed the writing style — the prose is beautiful and the description of the desert made it seem like a character itself. While this is a noir mystery, it is also very literary. There are a host of well-developed, interesting characters; all are broken in some way with something to hide in their past. There is a love story here too.
This was an original, well-plotted tale, both haunting and beautiful, that has left me thinking about it days after I’ve finished the book. One of my 2016 favorites.
I alternated between reading and listening to the book. The narration was skillfully performed by Kirby Heyborne in a flat, mysterious tone which added to the noir feel of the characters and the landscape.
Source: Review copy provided by LibraryThing and the publisher.
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