An ambling thriller about a suspicious murder-suicide that never meets a diversion it doesn’t like.
Wittingly or not, Wylie “Coyote” Melville, unofficial Everglades County crime consultant, may suggest a reader’s initial response to this latest from Dufresne when he says, “[a] lack of narrative structure, as you know, will cause anxiety.” Melville’s wide-ranging and loosely structured narrative, which looks like a series launch, won’t exactly cause a reader anxiety. In fact, this appealing raconteur’s keen observations and dry, sometimes mordant sense of humor consistently divert. But that also means a reader can’t always discern what the book wants to be about. Like Coyote, a busy therapist who, because of his attention to detail and behavior (“I read faces and furniture”), can just about divine a culprit, the book wears many hats. Ostensibly, the plot is about a Christmas Eve shootout in which a father takes out his wife, his three children and then himself. Police are quick to rule the tragedy a murder-suicide, but too much about the case nags at Coyote. His ensuing investigation ranges far and wide and takes many side trips. There are, for example, Coyote’s no-nonsense, advice-filled therapy sessions. There are Coyote’s meetings with friend Bay Lettique, a devilish magician who can slice a banana with a card tossed from 10 feet. And there are Coyote’s dinners with his sister and brother-in-law, who suffers gout. Throughout, Coyote’s sharp-eyed narration and quick takes on behavior amuse. “He looked like a Cal or a Kim,” Coyote says of a man in a bar whose “short blond hair was combed forward and rose to a quiff like the Gerber baby’s.” Eventually, Dufresne gathers some nasty police officers, Coyote, Bay and some others and packs them off to Alaska for a solid chase scene and a denouement that, however predictable, is no less potent.
A ride on a local that’s more fun than some others on an express.