The Good Driver, a Highly Original Crime Novel by Gary a James

The Bottom Line: One of the year’s most original crime novels, Gary A James’ frightening exploration of fraud in the trucking industry is guaranteed to keep you up at night. 

As The Good Driver opens, trucker Max Doren makes a decision he’ll soon regret: hauling a 53-foot van in frigid temperatures from his home base in Buffalo to West Virginia. When the fan in his truck breaks, he decides to stop for help in Pennsylvania. Unable to get hold of his dispatcher, Rick, he ends up paying the mechanic out of his own pocket. 

Max’s terrible week soon gets far worse, as he receives a call from the owner of the trucking company, Calvin Smith. It seems that the load he was carrying was broken into. The next words out of Calvin’s mouth makes Max’s already icy blood run even colder: “I spoke to Rick, and he’s connecting you to these thieves.” 

What follows is what can only be described as a professional apocalypse. Max is hit with an unrelenting stream of nasty surprises, including allegations of irresponsibility, suspension without pay, the discovery of fake license plates, sudden cancellations of loads and routes, evidence of cyber crime, and more. The more that happens to Max, the more he resembles the biblical figure Job – a hardworking, loyal person to whom bad things just keep happening. Or is someone pulling the strings from behind the curtain? 

Following that thread, author Gary A. James has created two veritable “devils” in Rick and Gerardo. Chapters written from Rick’s perspective portray him as a man driven by greed and other uncontrollable urges. Forty-years-old, having left his wife for a gorgeous 25-year-old girlfriend Amber, he soon finds himself in a throuple with Amber and Kelly, the girlfriend of co-conspirator Gerardor. But something is amiss. Most of the time, the two girls speak to each other in Spanish, leaving him out of the conversation. Rick is a huge fan of surveillance cameras, and that goes double for those installed in his own home.

Without the trucking industry, which is responsible for moving 70% of America’s goods, the U.S. supply chain would grind to halt. Those stakes are just one reason why The Good Driver is so compelling. But Max’s transformation from victim into amateur sleuth, along with his partner Cara, make for great reading as he sets out to make things right.

As a writer, James’ style is not flashy. His prose is workmanlike, his characters fully believable, his settings authentic. James methodically reveals who is pulling the strings behind the curtain and how they are doing it with precision. Along the way, we get a hefty dose of what it’s like to be a professional trucker in modern America. Here’s hoping Max returns for a second book, and when he does, that his dog Jeremy is riding shotgun. 

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