The Long Way Out by Michael Wiley Review

The Long Way Out by Michael Wiley, an intense character study of a man in crisis, a bleak tale of someone running from his troubled past toward an equally perilous future. Read my full review.

The Long Way Out Synopsis

A Franky Dast Mystery #2

Franky Dast is an unlikely hero. But when a desperate Mexican family turn to him, rather than trust the authorities, to help them track down their teenage daughter’s murderer, he is compelled to help. When another body shows up and he is personally threatened, Franky doubles-down on his investigation. Can Franky stop this vicious killer and find his own way out of his personal hell before it’s too late?

(Severn House, January 2023)

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Genre(s) Crime & Mystery

Michael Wiley | Pub Date 01/03/2023 | ISBN 9781448309849 | 240 pages

Book Review

Set in contemporary, small-town Florida, The Long Way Out by Michael Wiley is a novel in which the lives of an ex-con wrongfully incarcerated in prison for eight years for crimes he didn’t commit, a group of undocumented migrants, and a psychopathic serial killer are inextricably bound by a series of murders. It’s an intense character study of a man in crisis, a bleak tale of someone running from his troubled past toward an equally perilous future, and Wiley maintains the tension about his character’s fate throughout.

Franky Dast, recently released from prison after spending eight years there for a pair of murders he didn’t commit, is trying to put his life back together. But it isn’t easy. After prison, he successfully found and identified the killers who committed the murders a court wrongfully convicted him of. But the aggressive detective who arrested and framed him still has it in for Franky, and many in the community still regard him with suspicion. He lives permanently in a low rent motel and works as a gofer at an exotic animal rescue facility. Picking up dead chickens at a local commercial chicken farm to feed to the big cats at the animal rescue is one of Franky’s daily duties. That brings him into frequent contact with undocumented migrants who work at the chicken farm. When the fourteen-year-old daughter of a migrant family that Franky knows disappears, her mother begs Franky to look for her. The woman has heard about Franky finding the actual killers from the murders the authorities had pinned on him and believes Dast can help. But Franky refuses. A few days later, boaters find the girl’s body floating in a river. Partly because of the regret he feels for refusing to help the migrant family and partly because he is struggling to find meaning in his own life, Franky embarks on a private crusade to uncover the girl’s killer with shocking consequences. He digs into the murder and finds out the circumstances are far more convoluted than expected. While the premise of a former death row inmate investigating a murder as sort of an amateur private detective strains credibility, it makes for an interesting and quite imaginative story, as long as you don’t think about it too much. Wiley skillfully gives play to Franky’s shifting voice over its full emotional range―compassionate, disillusioned, cynical, desperate, and more. In Franky Dast, the author offers a precisely drawn portrait of a classic antihero living a life of near futility while attempting to come to grips with the personal trauma he has experienced. Franky’s heart-wrenching story is palpable and the type to stick with readers long after they turn the last page. Wiley balances the plot twists and turns with the weighty and complicated issues surrounding desperate economic migrants flowing across the country’s southern border hoping to find a better life. Instead, they too often find, on one hand, people openly hostile to them and, on the other, individuals eager to exploit their desperate circumstances to gain cheap labor. As the novel progresses, it picks up a propulsive energy that compels us to keep reading straight through to the end when the rising sense of tension comes to a shocking head.

I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley used for this review, which reflects my own honest opinions.

Book rating: ★★★★

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