This is a review of The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson.
This is going to sound like a trite, cliche plot description. A keep-to-himself loner with a non-glamorous job in the middle of nowhere encounters a strange girl under bizarre circumstances who slowly AND surely complicates his life and because of her he ends up running into some unsavorably dishonest characters. And most of the characters are somehow intertwined in each others’ lives which makes the ending hard to foresee. There is a character with a violent, traumatic past. There is a heist of valuable property. Is this starting to sound like a familiar trope, told time and time again? That is what I thought too. But then I read the book instead of stopping with the dust jacket.
James Anderson’s debut novel is a cleverly crafted story which while acknowledging most of the standard mystery novel elements, turns many of them on their heads to provide a narrative which is unpredictable up until the end.
The protagonist in the novel, Ben Jones, is a delivery driver whose route is out in the middle of the desert. It’s the kind of route that nobody would necessarily volunteer to run. But he does. His attitude helps paint the setting for the novel, one where everyone likes to keep to themselves as much as it can be helped. But throughout the book, Anderson does a good job of leading us along a path of watching Jones come out of his selfish shell. Of course, the events dumped on Jones do not give him much of an option.
The desert is as much a part of the setting as an actual character. Its interactions with various characters has a definite hand in how the plot of the novel unfolds, more so than any other components of the setting. It is almost as if throughout the novel that the desert itself has a personality of its own making it more than just a location.
The Never-Open Desert Diner is a mystery novel that on the surface feels like every other mystery novel ever written. But the magic in the book comes from the unique twists in a predictable plot which Anderson creates. In the end, I found the novel to be a very pleasant, quick, enjoyable read.
I received my copy of this book for free through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for writing a review. I was not obligated to write a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.