This is another Xavier recommended read, which has a narrative style where you’re not quite sure what to expect. In some ways the book’s blue print uses a number of familiar tropes, yet at various stages in the plot the narrative could go one of several ways and the way it goes is not necessarily one that you would expect.
The story centres on David Marks, who is a school teacher by day and a taxi driver by night, the latter job picked up as a way of coming to terms with his wife’s death 6 months previously, when she was killed by a hit and run accident. At the start of the book David thinks he is in luck when a woman gives him an $80 fare for a return trip to a rural property near Stamford in Connecticut. It’s not long before he is attracted to her and definitely intrigued by the trip, which she has asked complete secrecy for. Why is the property she is going to have no lights on? Why can’t he take his car up the drive way? Things get even more peculiar when a few nights later the passenger, the trip and the secrecy are repeated. When it gets to the third trip and David patience and curiosity are at melting point, events take a dark and sinister turn, leaving him in a dangerous situation. The rest of story looks at his attempts to extricate himself from the mess as his circumstances get worse, as well as find out the truth about the woman he drove all those times.
This is quite a short tale by Fletcher, only 150 pages, yet I think she packs a lot of action and emotion into it and in quite a cinematic way as well, based on how the chapters progress from one another. In some ways I equally see this novel as a variation on the heroine in jeopardy subgenre, with David taking on the stereotypical heroine in distress’s role. There are indeed moments where you want to shout things out such as ‘Don’t go into that house!,’ yet I would say the emotional aspect of the piece is played out differently due to David’s grief over his wife, which is actually well depicted. I also enjoyed the approach David takes to trying to extricate himself from the trouble he is in, with elements of amateur sleuthing and Baker Street Irregulars coming into it. I think the time this book was written also effects how it employs the subgenre it is riffing on, as we have unemotional, sparse and stark clipped comments on the troubled lives of David’s students and there is also an interesting reference to one character’s experiences of the Holocaust.
Perhaps the one character I struggled with in this book is David’s female passenger, who at points is quite frankly a pain in the butt and at these points I could have happily written her off as a clichéd character. However it all comes to the ending, where such a character can finally be seen in a different light and this is also an ending where I had a definite face palm moment when a twist is unfurled at David and the readers, yet the reader should not be so surprised as I was, as of course there is a clue given to them very early on about it and it is even repeated at later stages. It is also a given that I completely missed this clue and was therefore thoroughly surprised. The ambiguous ending also worked well for me as I felt it closed with an open ending, but in such a way that the reader still has a resolution. I am aware of one of Fletcher’s novels, Sorry, Wrong Number, which has been adapted for film, so I was wondering if this one also got adapted as it is definitely an apt text for adaptation and is one that would actually chime in with current TV/film trends. Fingers crossed one of my more informed readers will fill in the answer to this question. Anyways, regardless, as my final rating shows this was another good read. I seem to be on a roll!