A woman falls to her death from the ledge of a Las Vegas hotel in a thriller that falls from order into chaos.
Dufresne (No Regrets, Coyote, 2013, etc.) brings therapist-cum-investigator Wylie “Coyote” Melville back for what initially seems a focused, standard-issue noir case. In Las Vegas with magician and card shark pal Bay Lettique, the Everglades-based Melville looks to the apex of the triangular shaped Luxor Hotel in time to see a woman “hover…[as if] floating on an updraft” and then plunge to her death. A guard at the hotel orders the inquisitive Melville off the scene, and, in the days that follow, her obituary appears nowhere, and the Luxor denies the woman, Layla Davis, was registered there. Her passing, Melville remarks, “played like notes from an unclappered bell.” Unable to purge the image of the dead woman’s amber eyes, Melville pursues the story behind the suicide. Initially, the case follows a clear line: Layla, it seems, was in Vegas to rescue her sister from prostitution, one of the major activities on the Strip. That tip sends Melville off on a mad junket that Dufresne renders, through Melville’s narration, with a wiseacre wit and a keen eye for eccentric characters and bizarre detail, here offered up in barrels. As Melville wanders through fetid underground tunnels in Vegas, drives across America after a brief return to Florida, flees to rural Texas, which becomes the scene of a tense shootout, and then doubles back to Vegas for a gruesome chase through the tunnels, the reader, to paraphrase the book’s title, may wonder where the tale is going—and why. The point, it seems, is that America is as rootless and cockeyed as the book’s plot, and Vegas, with its sometimes-underage runaway prostitutes, its desperate tourists, and its perennial mobsters, is the country’s unofficial capital.
Readers who love to rummage cluttered desks, attics, and basements will have a heyday picking through the details in Dufresne’s big box emporium of a novel.