Fast Track (A Lark Chadwick Mystery) by John DeDakis
Speaking Volumes LLC, Naples, FL 2020
Mystery/Thriller/Suspense, 312 pages
Reviewed by Joan Bauer
Lark Chadwick comes home from her waitressing job one night to find that her beloved Aunt Annie has apparently committed suicide. As she begins to grieve, she must interrogate not only Annie’s death but the mysterious deaths of her parents, who were hit by a train while she, an infant at the time, was somehow thrown to safety. But it’s not immediately clear who Lark should trust: the handsome young Episcopal priest, Father Dan, or Sheriff Roy Miller, who is locked in a tight race for a U.S. congressional seat against the mayor of Pine Bluff, Wisconsin. The wrong decision could turn out to be deadly.
At the novel’s center is Lark’s unlikely friendship with Pulitzer-prizewinning journalist Lionel Stone, who has returned to Pine Bluff with his wife Muriel after a personal tragedy. When Lionel discovers that Lark is the “miracle baby” who survived the crash that killed her parents twenty-five years ago, he gives her a once-in-a-lifetime chance to tell her story. “I’ve never felt very miraculous,” Lark says. “In fact, if anything, I’ve always felt like a horrible accident.”
Lionel offers a master class in mentoring the younger generation of journalists. He is incensed when Lark fails to inform the subject of an interview that she is writing for publication: “I have no patience with people who get stories through false pretenses,” he says. And when Lark allows the mayor to provide crucial details off the record, she nearly kills her own story—as well as her relationship with the Stones, who have become her surrogate family. Lark must work hard to regain Lionel’s trust, and soon, she’s down to the wire.
As Lark investigates, it becomes clear that her parents’ death was no mere accident. In a desperate attempt to understand what went on in her father’s mind before the crash—or perhaps because suicide seems to run in her family--Lark stands on the tracks at night where her parents were killed. As a locomotive approaches, she feels nothing but “exhilaration and a profound respect for the raw force speeding toward me. … The rail creaked and shifted slightly. The train got louder, closer, its searchlight a huge, dazzling orb. The train’s two ditch lights took turns winking at me.”
Lark Chadwick’s story races forward from there. Part coming-of-age, part thriller, Fast Track raises significant questions about tragedy and resilience. As Lark considers the losses in her life, she asks herself, “Is the pain there for a purpose? Is it some sort of inner barometer—a mechanism to guide, rather than a dictator to compel?”
Reviewer Joan Bauer holds a Master’s degree in English from Marquette University and has worked as a trust officer in a bank. In the course of raising three children, she has chaired fundraisers, served on boards, and volunteered frequently at church and school. She is working on her third novel.
Wisconsin Writers Association
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