By John DeDakis
(ArcheBooks Publishing 2005)
I went to high school with the author of Fast Track. He’s now a senior copy editor at CNN, and this is his first novel. It’s fun to reconnect with him through his fiction.
Fast Track is a crime novel. It’s also, and mainly, a coming-of-age novel. The narrator, Lark Chadwick, was raised by her aunt because her parents were killed in a car-train crash when she was an infant. The novel opens with Lark coming home late one evening after work (she dropped out of college after three years and is working in a restaurant) to find her aunt dead of carbon monoxide poisoning, an apparent suicide. Bereft of all family, the 25-year-old Lark embarks on a journey of self-discovery by returning to the nearby small town where she was born to try to find out more about her parents. The more she finds out, the more suspicious the accident that killed her parents becomes, and that, in turn, casts doubt on her aunt’s death. Her self-discovery becomes, simultaneously, an investigation that yields surprising and disturbing results. It also leads Lark better to understand who she is, to embrace a vocation, and to create a new family.
There is an important story about faith embedded in this novel. Lark’s aunt was being counseled by an Episcopal priest, whose ministry to her and Lark leads to a revolt in his parish and teaches Lark an important lesson about forgiveness.
This is also a novel about writing. The vocation Lark discovers for herself is journalism, and it’s an investigative piece that she writes on her parents’ accident that solves the crime and brings the novel to its crisis. Mentored by the distinguished, but curmudgeonly, editor at her hometown newspaper, she learns important lessons about the techniques of journalism and about the ethics of reporting.
This is a tightly-plotted and well-written novel. You should read it.
David R. Anderson
President, St. Olaf College