First-novelist Klavan buries a small story under an avalanche of pretentious prose. Palmer Higg, 20, is drifting his Volvo around here and there in the West during one December. He picks up Janus Quintain, who has just been involved in a nasty piece of business at the gas station he worked for and feels it prudent to disappear. On the two drive, through blizzards and police roadblocks, and Janus tells Palmer the story of his searching for and eventual finding of Mary Williams, Janus' true love back when he was a high-school football star. In fact, Janus' story is a big fib--but lonely, obsessive Palmer believes every word and begins to think of this Mary as his Beatrice. Thin material? Yes, indeed. But it seems even thinner than it is because of Klavan's gilt verbiage, page after page of it: ""It echoed and flashed behind his brow, once telling never ended, source and its reverberation simultaneous and the same. There was no peace in gazing at her, no respite when he looked away, for something of her sprang to greet the bell, the bell immortal or ever dead, a hollow drum, a clapping to, the final slamming of a vault. The woods shut, locked. The echoes rung."" Earnest, but all but unreadable.