Book Review: No Second Chances by Rio Youers
By John ValeriFebruary 22, 2022
Canada’s Rio Youers is the critically acclaimed author of five novels, short fiction, and two comic series. His books include Westlake Soul, The Forgotten Girl, Halcyon, and Lola on Fire; these titles have earned him nominations for the British Fantasy, Sunburst, and Arthur Ellis Awards. His newest standalone novel of suspense, No Second Chances, is out now.
As the story opens, we meet aspiring actress Kitty Rae, who left her small Kentucky town (and the child she gave up for adoption) to chase her dreams of making it big in Hollywood. Like so many young people before her, success has eluded her. Instead, she’s making ends meet by couriering drugs for a small-time dealer known as Sly Boy via her skateboard. It’s during her deliveries that she catches the eye of Johan Fly, a famous YouTuber and Viking enthusiast whose social media platform is a cover for his real business: selling an exclusive drug known as ‘canary’ to Tinseltown’s elite. When he woos a weary Kitty into his orbit with promises of fame and fortune, heads roll (literally).
Before Kitty’s troubles begin in earnest, she befriends her neighbor—former A-list actor Luke Kingsley—after saving him from a suicide attempt. Luke fell from grace when his wife, soul artist Lisa Hayes, disappeared after a tumultuous night on the town. Luke woke up boozed and bloody the next day but with no recollection of what became of her. Despite the lack of a body, Luke’s been under constant suspicion of having killed Lisa—and renegade cop-turned PI Tera Montecino has made it her mission to exact justice by any means necessary. So when a visibly traumatized Kitty shows up at his door under cover of darkness, it’s Luke’s turn to repay the favor of showing blind faith.
Having barely survived a showdown with Johan and his henchmen, Kitty is now on the run for her life. With Luke at her side, they perpetrate a clever ruse and then make for Nevada—only to realize that their individual dramas share some surprising connections. This partnership, born of mutual loyalty in a town where such fidelity if often fleeting, serves as the novel’s emotional core. Though seeming opposites—Kitty is a wannabe with everything to lose while Luke is a has-been with nothing left to lose—the two share one incontrovertible commonality: a belief in one another. The stakes of their unlikely (and refreshingly non-flirtatious) friendship makes the threat of Johan and his trusty ax all the more terrifying as courses collide in a frenetic final act.
No Second Chances is fierce and not for the faint of heart. Youers unleashes a moody thriller that exposes the darkness, desperation, and depravity that exists beneath LA’s sheen of glitz and glamour—but with characters rife with redemptive potential. His cinematic eye and ear for dialogue results in the kind of story that plays out like a big-budget movie, but with a depth and nuance that’s better suited to novels. And while the title might suggest otherwise, it’s not a spoiler to say that happy endings are sometimes a matter of interpretation.