Detours – Jeffrey Ricker (Bold Strokes Books)

Buy it now direct from Bold Strokes Books

There’s nothing I love more than blending and melding genres
to create something unique, and I really admire those authors who have the
creative guts to do so. Jeffrey Ricker has invented a wonderful debut in Detours—part
ghost story, part road trip, part romance, but entirely witty, irreverent and
thoughtful.

Joel Patterson meets Philip while vacationing in London, but
their beginning is interrupted by the ending of Joel’s mother, who suddenly
dies of cancer. He quits his job in order to fulfill his mother’s last request
to take the RV she and his father have never used cross country to an old
family friend. Complicating factors? Joel’s high school friend, Lincoln, who
invites himself along for the ride, not to mention his mother’s ghost—and for a
dead woman, she has a lot to say.

Mashing these genres together should be difficult, but
Ricker makes it look like a breeze. This is, in large part, due to his
wonderful characters. Joel is hopelessly confused about life and love, but he’s
so damn winning that you find yourself rooting for him from the get-go. And you
know he’ll resolve his problems in spite of himself. It’s Mom who steals the
show, however. By turns caustic and caring, she dispenses her indespensible
advice as freely as her ethereal right grants her.

But as charming as those characters are, I found myself
drawn to Joel’s father, who must rebuild his own life in much the same way Joel
needs to, without the advantage of having a love offstage waiting for his cue.
Poor guy gets the dog, Dudley, instead. Come to think of it, that’s not a bad
deal.

The only character I found less than fulfilling was Philip,
who makes an appearance at the beginning and then not again until the ending
draws near. I understand the plot difficulties in bringing him in sooner, but I
wish we’d gotten to spend more time together. However, that’s of little concern
with such great scenes as Joel visiting his mother’s friends (and her romantic
rival) Sylvia and Gerald. These high comic pieces are hysterical relief from
the ineffable weirdness that is Lincoln, who may be good in bed but is lousy in
life.

Detours is a great read from start to finish, full of
delightful twists and inventive turns that lead you to a heart-tugging destination
with no GPS required.

Just get on and ride. 

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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