A grandson of French-Canadian immigrants, John Dufresne (Love Warps the Mind a Little) grew up in blue-collar Worcester, Mass. His life and his fiction took a decided turn south, though, when he earned an MFA from the University of Arkansas and began teaching in Louisiana and Florida. His fiction is filled with story-telling misfits in the tradition of Faulkner, O'Connor and Toole. In No Regrets, Coyote, he extends his reach into Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey turf with a Florida crime novel swarming with crooked cops, Russian thugs, Mafia lawyers and a naïve but dogged therapist who untangles the messy corruption... and more or less rights the wrongs.
In Melancholy, Fla., Wylie "Coyote" Melville runs a one-man therapy practice with a Sigmund Freud bobblehead on his desk and a short list of very troubled clients. His almost clairvoyant ability to see behind appearances leads to his occasional retention by the local police to take a second look at particularly befuddling crime scenes. Called in on what seems a simple family murder-suicide, his instincts tell him there is more to the story, and he's proven right--but first, Dufresne takes us deeply into Wylie's own family story.
Wylie is a mess: divorced and living alone in an eerily empty house after the death of his beloved cat Satchel. Things get better when his former girlfriend gets him a new cat and his widowed, Alzheimer's-afflicted father settles into a retirement community. Meanwhile, his friend Bay, a gambler and magician, helps him sort out the puzzling crime.
Dufresne's cast of villains and weirdoes is both funny and frightening. The mobbed up cops are "heavy set guys in Dockers with buzz cuts and brushy mustaches, wearing their polo shirts a size too small, trash-talking about the Dolphins, and arm wrestling." A dead victim's wallet tells a life story: "He shops at Winn-Dixie, flies Delta, has just one more hot dog to buy at 'Wiener Takes All' before he gets a free one." Wylie meets an informant near a landscaper's van lettered "Weed 'em and Reap!"
The resolution of all this mayhem includes a side trip to Anchorage and an Everglades wildfire. If No Regrets, Coyote sometimes gets a little overwhelming, it may be because Dufresne has so thoroughly shed his reticent "Yankee" past and embraced the eccentric exuberance of the South. --Bruce Jacobs
Shelf Talker: Southern raconteur John Dufresne's fifth novel is a fresh Florida crime story of edgy villains and an endearingly persistent detective/therapist.