Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Book Review: "I Don't Like Where This is Going" by John Dufresne

John Dufresne does his best Carl Hiaasen impression with his newest book, I Don't Like Where This is Going, and achieves mixed results.

Wylie "Coyote" Melville has fled his Florida home, where people are trying to kill him, for the anonymity of Las Vegas. He's more than a bit of a drinker, but he has a good heart, even working at a crisis center, where he is often the one speaking to distressed and lonely people on the center's helpline. One afternoon, when he and a friend are hanging out at the Luxor casino, Wylie sees a young woman fall 30 floors to her death.

Wylie can't get the whole scene out of his head, and he wants to understand who this woman was and what happened. Clearly someone doesn't want him to learn the truth—for some reason, he is thwarted at every turn. And it's more than just people refusing to answer his questions or pretending not to recognize the woman's photo when they clearly do. The people who want to hide the truth will stop at nothing—framing him for crimes he didn't commit, even violence.

With his best friend, sleight-of-hand master Bay, at his side, Wylie attempts to uncover the truth, and along the way the two encounter more than their share of unusual characters and bizarre situations. And at the same time, he's confronting crises within his own family, and contemplating some serious issues, such as homelessness, human trafficking, and mistreatment of women, along the way.

This is an intriguing book. I liked Wylie's character and found him much more complex than I originally thought. But Dufresne crams far too many quirky supporting characters and situations into this book, and while some of them are amusing, most of them seem almost like red herrings and distract from the core of the plot. It seemed as if every time the book built up some momentum, the story took another detour. However, Dufresne is a great writer, so while the book meanders a bit, it's mostly an entertaining journey.

I'm a big fan of Dufresne's earlier works of fiction (I'd highly recommend Love Warps the Mind a Little in particular), but I wasn't aware he had begun dabbling in mystery. I Don't Like Where This is Going is apparently the second book featuring Wylie, and while I missed the first, I didn't feel as if I was missing a lot of background.

If you enjoy the quirkiness of Carl Hiaasen and early Elmore Leonard, combined with some good character development, pick this one up. It's a little bit zany, but it's balanced out by strong storytelling.

NetGalley and W.W. Norton & Company provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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