His historical novels include the Nick Revill series, set in Elizabethan London, a Victorian sequence, and a series of Chaucer mysteries, now in in e-books.
If you needed any convincing, John Dufresne’s No Regrets, Coyote will convince you of the fact that there’s wacky and then there’s Florida wacky. In fact, just about the only sane, semi-normal and uncorrupted character in the book is the narrator, Wylie ‘Coyote’ Melville - and he’s a therapist who is himself in therapy.
As a sideline to counselling a serial killer (as it turns out) in addition to the odd neurotic and a man who wants to cut off one of his own legs, Wylie is on call to the Eden Police Department to cast his professional eye over crime scenes. It all begins promisingly with the Christmas Eve murder of a family at the hands of the father who’s then turned the gun on himself. But, surprise, none of what appears to be so is so. Digging around, Wylie discovers that the dead adults have odd or conflicting past lives. And the police don’t seem very interested in following up his findings. In fact, a number of them are more interested in harassing Wylie, despite his skill in apprehending a serial killer who is nothing to do with the main case.
John Dufresne is a straight novelist and No Regrets, Coyote doesn’t trouble to hide its literary connections, with references to Proust, Kafka and a running motif out of one of W.H.Auden’s poems. The central character is as loaded down with gaudily colourful family and friends as a Christmas tree. Long stretches are given over to Wylie’s patient attention to his demented father or his fractured relationship with his overweight sister while the most entertaining of his friendships is with a card-playing magician, who produces several life-saving rabbits out of the narrative hat at the end.
No Regrets, Coyote is a very polished performance, designed to produce a sense of place and atmosphere both glittering and off-kilter. It certainly does that job even if it doesn’t fit the pattern of a traditional crime novel.