Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting, well developed lead characters…
Cons: …Who happen to be criminals
The Bottom Line:
Go on this road trip
With reforming criminals
Watch characters grow
Character Growth on a Road Trip
On the Road with Del and Louise is a very different book from what I normally read. As the subtitle says, it is a novel in stories. The book is a collection of six short stories that follow the same characters across the country. Along the way, we get to know them and root for them to get a happy ending.
These main characters are Del and Louise. We meet them as Del is about to pull one last job. You see, he’s a thief, and Louise meets him when he robs her at the 7-11 where she is currently working. She gives him her number, and the two of them start dating. But the book starts as they are about to hit the road, and Del is hoping that the money from this one last job will set them up in their future.
It’s that future that seems to be in constant jeopardy. Del really wants to leave this life of crime behind so Louise isn’t dragged further into it, but things never seem to go as planned. We catch up with them in Victorville, California, the Napa wine country, Las Vegas, and North Dakota before the duo head to Louise’s hometown in North Carolina to get married.
The six stories and the trouble that Del and Louise find are all very different, and I’m not going to spoil any of that for you. Most of them fall into the caper side of the crime genre spectrum, but there is one traditional mystery along the way.
All of them are platforms for us to really get to know Del and Louise, especially Louise as she is our narrator. They are both very complex characters, which is one reason I grew to like them. Yes, my main complaint with the book is that our main characters, very sympathetic main characters, should be in jail. Yet I constantly found myself rooting for them to do the right thing and avoid jail time. Fortunately, their crimes are minimal, and that makes it better for me.
Each story starts slowly, building up to the tease that opened that section. But once we get to the main plot of the chapter, things really get interesting. With each chapter being a different plot, there’s no repetition so no reason to get bored.
Because this book is more a character study than a mystery novel (even though it is classified as a mystery), the novel in stories approach works well. There are themes that weave through all the stories, which help tie things together. Del and Louise are really the only characters in all the stories, although we get references to some in multiple stories, and Louise usually does talk to her mother (or at least about her mother) in all the stories. If I could compare it to anything, it would be to a series of books where tiny things from each entry pop up in the others. And all the time, Del and Louise are growing as characters, which helps keep us invested.
And I know I’m probably the only one who will talk about this being more character study than mystery. Yes, the plots of the stories are crime related, but that aren’t the focus at all. I maintained the same thing about Lisa Lutz’s Spellman Files series while devouring each one. Yet several of them were nominated for top mystery awards, just like this book has been. I guess I’m just extremely picky in my classifications.
My reservations about our heroes aside, On the Road with Del and Louise is an interesting road trip with two characters who you truly come to care about. If you are looking for something different in the crime genre, this book is for you.