Title: Lullaby Road by James Anderson
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program
Winter has come to Route 117, a remote road through the high desert of Utah trafficked only by eccentrics, fugitives, and those looking to escape the world. Local truck driver Ben Jones, still in mourning over a heartbreaking loss, is just trying to get through another season of treacherous roads and sudden snowfall without an accident. But then he finds a mute Hispanic child who has been abandoned at a seedy truck stop along his route, far from civilization and bearing a note that simply reads “Please Ben. Watch my son. His name is Juan” And then at the bottom, a few more hastily scribbled words. “Bad Trouble. Tell no one.”.
Despite deep misgivings, and without any hint of who this child is or the grave danger he’s facing, Ben takes the child with him in his truck and sets out into an environment that is as dangerous as it is beautiful and silent. From that moment forward, nothing will ever be the same. Not for Ben. Not for the child. And not for anyone along the seemingly empty stretch of road known as Route 117.
Featuring many of the same people from The Never-Open Desert Diner, Lullaby Road by James Anderson is an intriguing mystery starring independent trucker Ben Jones who once again finds himself caught up in the lives of the eccentric people along his delivery route.
Set against the backdrop of the Utah desert and lonely highway 117, Ben finds himself swept into drama of other people’s making. Unable to refuse a virtual stranger’s plea, he reluctantly takes young Juan into his care temporarily. His day gets even more complicated when Ginny, the teen mom he has been helping, asks him to take her baby Annabelle for the day since her sitter canceled. With an early winter snowstorm on its way, Ben sets about making the day’s deliveries but every time he turns around, he is distracted by the problems that manage to find the people along his route.
Ben remains a complex man who has left his boozing and brawling days behind him. Despite his reluctance to take young Juan with him, the alternative is turning the young boy over to social services which is something Ben will only consider as a last resort. His admiration for how Ginny pretty much singlehandedly turning her life around also makes it impossible to tell her no when she finally asks for help. Ben’s interactions with the various people along his route really showcase how kind-hearted and compassionate he is. He is respectful for his customers’ desire for privacy but he does not hesitate to push them when he needs answers.
The novel is a little busy due to a number of secondary story arcs but the various storylines all play out rather neatly. Ben is quickly distracted from his quandary over Juan after itinerant preacher John is severely injured in a hit and run accident. Ben also faces the loss of someone dear to him but he also realizes that he must not interfere with their decision. He is also somewhat troubled by new information about diner owner Walt Butterfield but he avoids finding out what is going on with the elderly veteran. Then there is the stunning double homicide that takes the decision about what to do with Juan out of Ben’s hands once and for all.
Lullaby Road is another intricately plotted character driven story that also features a perplexing mystery. Ben is a complex protagonist whose troubled past does not disguise the fact that he has a heart of gold. The desolate, beautiful and harsh desert is the perfect setting for the unfolding drama and James Anderson brings the novel to a somewhat hurried but satisfactory conclusion.