I Don’t Like Where this Is Going, by John Dufresne
Genre: Crime fiction. Plot: Outraged by the coverup of a prostitute’s death in Luxor, therapist Wylie Melville and his oddball posse investigate a ring of powerful sex-traffickers and their brutal enforcer. Is one of the characters a poker-playing magician: Of course. How is Vegas depicted: Not in a way the Chamber of Commerce will endorse: as a city of exploited women, eccentric residents, casual corruption, rampant deception — fairly standard Vegas stuff. But some characters do love it here. Quality of Vegas knowledge: Relatively high. Dufresne did his homework. Scenes are set in real casinos and the storm drains below, and passing name-checks include Chicago Joe’s and stinging appraisals of local media. Even in made-up locations the book’s logistics feel right. Extra points for: A Kafka Society convention that lines the Strip with solemn Kafka imitators. Contrived? Yes. But cool? Yes. Points deducted for: Some of the characters, action and events are unrealistically over-the-top. A few lines are howlers. What’s really going on: Exploitation is Dufresne’s meta subject: how pervasive it is and how complicit our civic institutions and rather-not-know populace are in perpetuating it. Vegas serves simply as his lens onto America.