Return to the Madlands is the third and final book in prolific wordsmith Dave Matthes' Mire Man Trilogy. The story picks up with everybody's favourite misanthropic, whisky drinking, son of a bitch, Arlo Smith, a decade or thereabouts after he drove off into the sunset at the end of Paradise City (the second book in the trilogy). Now in his fifties/sixties (his exact age is never stated), Arlo has been living a relatively normal life (by his standards). Shacked up, playing happy families with Beth Jensen - the former teacher he had a relationship with in high school, and the woman who sprung him from his self imposed exile in Moriarty's Institute.
After ten years of normality, Beth has now passed away and Arlo discovers that she had been hiding letters from him. Many letters, sent to him over a number of years, by his former lover, Constance (the love interest from the first book of the trilogy, Bar Nights). Having almost given up on life after Beth's passing and feeling the effects of Father Time on his weary bones, he decides to roll the dice once last time, and hits the road in search of his long lost love. What follows is a madcap adventure across the country which leads Arlo to a destination he did not expect, nor could ever have imagined in his wildest dreams.
Return to the Madlands is the longest book of the trilogy, clocking in at just over 300 pages, and departs from the flash back/memory recall motif of Paradise City. It is much more in keeping, stylistically, with the first and shortest book of the trilogy, Bar Nights. Madlands plays out like a series of vignettes from the open road, documenting all of the crazy, weird situations that Arlo finds himself in during his trip, with all of the strange people he encounters, and the trouble that he inevitably lands in the middle of. At the end of my review of Paradise City I said that I would not be holding my breath for a happy ending for Arlo, and after reading the heartbreaking epilogue after the conclusion of the story, I was certainly right not to! However, heartbreaking epilogue aside, the end was not all together bad for Arlo, in fact I would say that Madlands was very much the redemption of Arlo Smith. I imagine we have not seen the last of this character, as there are plenty of gaps in the story that Matthes could explore, but if we never see Arlo again, then this was a very fitting end for a very interesting character.
READ MY REVIEW OF BOOK I AND BOOK II AND SUPPORT INDIE AUTHOR DAVE MATTHES BY BUYING HIS BOOKS ON AMAZON UK OR AMAZON US AND FOLLOW NEWS OF HIS FUTURE WORKS ON HIS WESBITE.