Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Never-Open Desert Diner - James Anderson

The Never-Open Desert Diner
James Anderson
Caravel Book/Pleasure Boat Studio, Feb 15 2015, $25.00
ISBN: 9780912887104

Owned and solo operated of Desert Moon Delivery Service, thirty-something Ben Jones drives his rig as a subcontractor making deliveries to people he knows along desolate Utah Highway 117.  His business is failing as there is not a big call for packages amongst the eccentrics residing on this relatively deserted desert road.  Thus when he notices a stranger, he is stunned.  Even more shocking to Ben is the naked squatter playing a cello that has no strings.  Over “music” Ben and Claire meet.

Claire’s arrival reminds locals of a four-decade old gruesome crime that occurred at The Well-Known Desert Diner (locally referred to as The Never-Open Desert Diner) that all prefer to forget, but no longer can.  Ben, the diner’s acrimonious owner widower Walt Butterfield, Preacher John doing seemingly eternal penitence with his large cross, Fergus and Duncan Lacey and pregnant teen Ginny react differently to the stranger whose arrival ends their sanctuary.

With a captivating barren landscape anchoring this riveting desert noir, armchair readers will feel they are riding with Ben in his van visiting places on 117 like the diner.  The gripping desolate atmosphere mindful of the film Petrified Forest and a fully-developed cast make for a terse thriller in which the past resurrects itself with the arrival of the naked cellist. 

Harriet Klausner

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