REVIEW: NOVEMBER ROAD, BY LOU BERNEY

 

Set against the assassination of JFK, a poignant and evocative crime novel that centers on a desperate cat-and-mouse chase across 1960s America—a story of unexpected connections, daring possibilities, and the hope of second chances from the Edgar Award-winning author of The Long and Faraway Gone.

Frank Guidry’s luck has finally run out.

A loyal street lieutenant to New Orleans’ mob boss Carlos Marcello, Guidry has learned that everybody is expendable. But now it’s his turn—he knows too much about the crime of the century: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Within hours of JFK’s murder, everyone with ties to Marcello is turning up dead, and Guidry suspects he’s next: he was in Dallas on an errand for the boss less than two weeks before the president was shot. With few good options, Guidry hits the road to Las Vegas, to see an old associate—a dangerous man who hates Marcello enough to help Guidry vanish.

Guidry knows that the first rule of running is “don’t stop,” but when he sees a beautiful housewife on the side of the road with a broken-down car, two little daughters and a dog in the back seat, he sees the perfect disguise to cover his tracks from the hit men on his tail. Posing as an insurance man, Guidry offers to help Charlotte reach her destination, California. If she accompanies him to Vegas, he can help her get a new car.

For her, it’s more than a car— it’s an escape. She’s on the run too, from a stifling existence in small-town Oklahoma and a kindly husband who’s a hopeless drunk.


My Thoughts: Nostalgia gripped me as I found myself back in 1963, in a world saddened by the assassination of JFK. That was a different world from the one we know today, but sadly, there was violence then, too. There were bad guys chasing one another…and set against that backdrop, there were unhappy marriages. Like Charlotte’s marriage to a drunk who was unreliable. But with two daughters, Charlotte was determined to find a different life.

Coincidence brings Guidry onto Charlotte’s path, and he sees a perfect disguise, a way to escape those who want him dead. He didn’t count on feeling something for her, or for her daughters. Heading west on a November Road, they try to escape their circumstances. As they drive, they listen to the car radio, and I was swept back in time to the songs of the 60s.

Alternate narratives take us along the way as those hunting Guidry are hot on his trail. Despite his efforts to steer them in the wrong direction, we sense that they are too close for comfort.

I love a story of people from different worlds coming together and finding something in common. Maybe even love. But will their differences keep them apart? Or can they each put their pasts behind them? A lovely and nostalgic journey with these characters, even as we know that there will be no happy ending. 5 stars.

***
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