Revenge and the art of motorcycle maintenance.
Wells’ debut novel, which follows a tax attorney adrift in the wake of his daughter’s disappearance, veers uneasily between a soul-searching tale of self-discovery in the Mitch Albom mode, a Kerouac-ian road story and a traditional crime thriller, never quite satisfying on any front. This is largely due to the fact that Wells’ protagonist is essentially a cipher; ex-lawyer and grieving father Jack Tanner narrates his own story without revealing anything resembling a personality or sensibility. He’s a comfortable, complacent, middle-age man whose life has been upended by tragedy, and while it’s easy to feel sympathy for his situation, it’s impossible to invest much interest in the man himself as he blandly describes his not-quite adventure impulsively buying a motorcycle to ride cross-country in search of his missing daughter’s ex-boyfriend, who may know more about the girl’s fate than he revealed during the police investigation. Along the way, Tanner suffers a minor accident, inadvisably picks up a comely young hitchhiker (Wells is oddly fixated on the attractiveness of nearly every female his hero encounters), falls in with a most unusual biker gang and, in the novel’s most serious misstep, drifts into leaden magical realism as he teams up with what may or may not be the ghost of Ernest Hemingway. By this point, the resolution of Tanner’s quest has lost any sense of urgency, and indeed, the book just sort of dribbles away into a mawkishly hopeful sigh of a conclusion.
Low-key and inoffensive to a fault, this thriller, like its hero, was born to be mild.