The twists and turns of a cab driver during a presidential campaign

Book review by Sebastian Lim

Title: The Driver

Author: Mark Dawson

Publisher: Welbeck

ISBN: 9781787397057

John Milton has certainly come a long way since leaving his former employer. From being an assassin to beating a drug cartel to cab driver in San Francisco, he has done it all as his cover.

That’s where we find him at the start of this novel, driving a cab. And since it’s John we’re talking about, things do not stay that way for long.

Soon, things start to evolve on their own, drawing John in. As usual, John allows himself to be caught in other people’s problems and tries to solve them.

He’s still trying to atone for sins of the past, trying to make amends. It’s that Alcoholic Anonymous thing that keeps him grounded, only he can’t make amends to the people he needs to, because they are dead. He killed them.

So, he makes do with strangers, and in this case, it’s the boyfriend of a missing hooker – that was last seen at a party where she went in John’s cab.When the police don’t take it seriously at first, John decides to step in with all of his skills set.

This is the first book of the Milton series that also includes a mystery. Unfortunately, the beginning of the book is a bit slow moving and tedious to read.

As the story unfolds, we get to understand the reason why John decides to get involved with his passenger, a girl called Madison Clarke, whom he sent to a frat party at a wealthy client’s house.

While waiting for her outside the house for her return trip to the city, something unusual happens to Madison who comes out screaming for help. John tries to get to her but she runs to the next house and then the one after that to ask for help before disappearing into the bushes at the side of the gardens and then vanishing into the fog. And that was the lasthe saw her.

Next, John meets up with Madison’s boyfriend, Trip Macklemore, and together, they begin to look for her.

The book actually consists of two alternating stories – one on John looking for Madison and another on the story of presidential candidate, Governor Joseph Jack Robinson and his friend as well as his chief-of-staff, Arlene Crawford. It appears that Arlene is having difficulties coping with Joseph’s womanising ways in the middle of the presidential campaign.

Arlene’s advice to her friend is ignored and she feels that Joseph is a walking time bomb waiting to explode. When the police find three bodies of women near the location where John left Madison for the party, John becomes suspicious and starts digging into the case. And is amazed by what he finds.

The two stories converge and culminate into a great finale. The best parts in a John Milton novel are always those parts when John starts to turn into a cold machine, meticulously dishing out justice and revenge for those who can’t fight for themselves. He’s like the great equaliser for the helpless.

As always, while John helps those around him, his story ends on a sad note. He’s like the lone cowboy riding into the sunset, skipping town at the end.

While the ending is fitting – the start of the novel and the middle need beefing up. As a thriller, one finds that part of the story is deflated and draggy. Only towards the end did the excitement pick up.

Sebastian Lim is an experienced journalist and editor who now runs his own book review blog — The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of The Weekly-Echo.