I DON’T LIKE WHERE THIS IS GOING
Between its latex masks, Google glasses, Kafka impersonators and “Pokertox” references (botox for poker players), John Dufresne’s second Wylie “Coyote” Melville novel taps keenly into ideas of perception and deception. Set amid a city of glittering distractions, in this largely Vegas-based follow-up to 2013’s No Regrets Coyote equips Dufresne’s appetite for digressive prose with purpose: every plot tributary, vivid detail and colourful support character gets vigorously integrated into his surreal, scathing snapshot of a nation’s self-deceit.
He’s got the perfect lead for this in Wylie, a scathing, sharp-witted but secretly empathetic South Florida therapist and forensic consultant experienced in teasing out narratives from surface clues. Laying low in Vegas with his magician (sleight of hand – it’s vital here) pal Bay after gangster trouble, Wylie has a tough job of it as he investigates a seeming suicide – and encounters only aggressive cover-ups.
The investigation meanders, but its sense of drift follows Dufresne’s thematic currents of distraction and denial. And as a morally outraged tale of human trafficking, addiction, prostitution and homelessness gradually emerges from under the slick surface, pace and tension tighten up accordingly. In other words, don’t let diffuse first impressions distract: Dufresne’s deep, dark, frequently dazzling satire of American corruption has a lot up its sleeve.