The Never-Open Desert Diner
Author: James Anderson
Publication Date: March 22nd, 2016
Synopsis: 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 lives a quiet, hardscrabble life, working as a trucker on Route 117, a little-traveled road in a remote region of the Utah desert which serves as a haven for fugitives and others looking to hide from the world. For many of the desert’s inhabitants, Ben’s visits are their only contact with the outside world, and the only landmark worth noting is a once-famous roadside diner that hasn’t opened in years.
Ben’s routine is turned upside down when he stumbles across a beautiful woman named Claire playing a cello in an abandoned housing development. He can tell that she’s fleeing something in her past — a dark secret that pushed her to the end of the earth — but despite his better judgment he is inexorably drawn to her.
As Ben and Claire fall in love, specters from her past begin to resurface, with serious and life-threatening consequences not only for them both, but for others who have made this desert their sanctuary. Dangerous men come looking for her, and as they turn Route 117 upside down in their search, the long-buried secrets of those who’ve laid claim to this desert come to light, bringing Ben and the other locals into deadly conflict with Claire’s pursuers. Ultimately, the answers they all seek are connected to the desert’s greatest mystery — what really happened all those years ago at the never-open desert diner?
In this unforgettable story of love and loss, Ben learns the enduring truth that some violent crimes renew themselves across generations. At turns funny, heartbreaking and thrilling, The Never-Open Desert Diner powerfully evokes an unforgettable setting and introduces readers to a cast of characters who will linger long after the last page.
The Never-Open Desert Diner is an interesting little mystery, and it’s definitely the type to pull you in and make you finish reading to see what happens. While it was originally dubbed a crime-thriller (and if you know me, you know that I really don’t care much for crime-thrillers), I definitely found myself overlooking that, because I really wanted to read this book. The synopsis for it made it sound like an original, interesting novel that I just had to get my hands on, so I requested it from Blogging for Books in hopes that I would finally be able to satisfy my curiosity.
While it wasn’t as amazing as I had hoped, it definitely did have quite a few things that I liked about it. For one, there’s the story line. It’s completely off the charts original, and I found myself saying “just one more chapter” over and over again until it was 3 am.
The second thing I liked about it was the cast of characters – they seemed a bit unusual, kind of like misfits, and I loved them. They were well written and had interesting personalities that made you feel like you were there with them, interacting and witnessing their struggles firsthand.
The other thing that I thought was pretty neat about this book was the setting. It takes place kind of out in the desert, in a diner that’s never open.
This book kind of reminded me of Vinnie’s Diner, by Jennifer AlLee, which I read a while back. I loved that book for the originality and interesting story line, so I was drawn to this one for the same reasons (only this book didn’t have the whole Christian thing going on towards the end).
The book itself is pretty short, so it didn’t take too long to read. The plot flowed smoothly for the most part, but I did find it difficult to keep track of some of the characters in it at first. Some parts seemed like there was a lot of rambling, but those were pretty few in between so it wasn’t much of an issue. I don’t really read a lot of books outside the YA genre, so this was a nice change for me.
The pacing was a little slow at first, but it picked up and things got pretty exciting.
Overall, this was a great read, and if you like mysteries and thrillers, I would check it out!
Note: I received a copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.