For me, it all starts with the title. A bad one can make or
break a purchase for me as a consumer. As a writer, I can’t even begin unless I
have the right one. And with Three Wrong Turns in the Desert, Neil
Plakcy has a title guaranteed to generate interest. Luckily, the book follows
through on the promise.
Dumped by his boyfriend in Philly, Aiden Greene escapes to
Tunisia, where he has a teaching job lined up. He winds up in a seedy bar
staring out the window at an apartment across the alley where he sees former
SEAL Liam McCullough taking a shower. He goes back the next day for a repeat
showing and finds Liam at a table. After some banter, they head off to Aiden’s
place but are interrupted by a man named Carlucci who is shot to death in front
of them by a thug on a motorcycle. Thus begins a desert chase cum
romance complete with spies, traitors, camels, Swiss bank accounts, anthrax
and—oh yes, sex in the dunes. Lots of sex in the dunes.
Plakcy takes full advantage of his locale, providing a
strong sense of place and some powerful descriptive passages, but he never lets
either the locale or the sex slow the pace. The plot moves as quickly as a
caravan with an oasis in sight. That doesn’t mean the characters are slighted,
however. Both Aiden and Liam grow as the mystery unravels, and they end up
being interesting, multi-dimensional people instead of the cardboard cutouts
that populate many romance novels.
The only misstep I can find—and it’s a small one—is the
not-well-motivated return of Aiden’s Philly boyfriend at the end of the book.
Nothing Aiden has told us about him during the course of the novel would
indicate that he cared enough to track his ex down, let alone buy a ticket to
Tunisia and try to drag him back home. Granted, it does give Liam a chance to
show his love for Aiden, but the whole episode seemed jarring to me and didn’t
fit in well with an otherwise seamless piece. But, as I said, it’s a small
issue easily overlooked.
So, if the cold January weather puts you in the mood for
sunnier climes, let Neil Plakcy lead you through Three Wrong Turns in the
You might just be tan by March.
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler