Written by John Dufresne — Christmas Eve and Wylie ‘Coyote’ Melville is called to a brutal murder scene by his detective friend, Carlos. By day Wylie is a therapist, but on the side he’s a volunteer forensic consultant working for lawyers and the police. Wylie has an ability to read people and their possessions to determine what they’re thinking – an ‘intuitionist’ as Carlos refers to him.
The killings were carried out by a seemingly ordinary man, Chaffin Halliday, who gunned down his wife, two children, and then himself. Wylie believes something isn’t right with the crime scene, but can’t determine what.
At the same time, Wylie’s private life is messy. His father is struggling in the grip of Alzheimer’s, his love life is in pieces, his sister is failing to cope with her excessive weight and a homeless man, Red, has moved onto Wylie’s front lawn. Wylie begins his own investigation into the Halliday murder/suicide, aided by his magician friend, Bay. However he’s hampered by the local Florida police who take exception to Wylie and subject him to increasingly violent methods to force him off the case. But Wylie won’t go quietly.
One aspect of No Regrets, Coyote is in no doubt – it’s very well written. Dufresne is clearly a talented wordsmith. The style is deceptively easy on the eye. It’s interesting, smart, sassy and eccentric. If I were to judge it on this matter alone, No Regrets, Coyote would achieve a four star rating. But, there’s a problem with the narrative that becomes increasingly frustrating as the book progresses and consequently reels back the overall judgement.
The main theme, Wylie’s investigation into Halliday, is very good. It’s intriguing and captivating. The dialogue is sharp and snappy. Additional tension is supplied by the amateur detective’s interaction with the police, and Officer Shanks in particular. The main characters are strong and well drawn.
However, the author insists on dragging us off into largely pointless cul de sacs. Think of the Halliday murder as a flowing river. It bubbles along nicely with plenty of hidden rocks, twists and turns but then Dufresne creates eddies and whirlpools along the margins that slow the pace down and suck us away from the mainstream. For example there’s Wylie’s family. Okay, it’s interesting back story, but with one exception, doesn’t really add to the story.
Sometimes the level of detail borders on the excessive. For example, Wylie is at dinner with his family and stresses that there are 16 types of mustard on the table, then lists them all. Why? There’s a massive number of characters too. Seemingly everybody, no matter how inconsequential, is named, described and given traits. At one point the interlinked main characters and their roles are outlined over a couple of paragraphs – a bewildering 11 people (yes, I counted them). It’s difficult to keep track of everything.
We learn the killer’s identity in a decent twist, the perpetrator is a good surprise. However I have to say one facet of the reveal did make me question why Wylie was brought in on the case. The last vestiges of the investigation are thrown out as ‘this is what we know now’ reveals. Maybe the author had run out of steam. And then there’s the bewildering end. The investigation is closed, the bad guys dealt with so we move on to the joyous event of a wedding… which turns into a gun battle. Why? I read over this section several times and simply couldn’t understand it.
As I said right at the beginning, from a technical perspective this is a well written novel with a storyline that’s interesting. Unfortunately the execution let it down. Which is a pity.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars