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Would you bet your life on luck? Risk your fortune on a coin toss or wager? In Toronto screenwriter Scott Carter’s debut novel, Dave Bolden could plausibly answer yes. When the driver of an 18-wheel big rig has a seizure and crashes his truck into an office building, Dave is the lone survivor. Dave himself would have fallen victim to the catastrophe, but the mother of all hangovers had driven him from his desk to take refuge in the washroom.
Multi-millionaire investor Mr. Thorrin, who views Dave’s fortuitous survival as an omen, badly wants Dave on his payroll. Dave is sceptical but, deep in debt and newly jobless, he accepts Thorrin’s offer of employment. Dave’s luck is put to the test in assignments that run the gamut from the obvious (picking stocks or predicting the point totals of football games) to the ridiculous (guessing a stranger’s name or the amount of money in someone’s bank account). Carter punctuates the narrative with scenes from Dave’s past, each of which illustrates the effect fortune has had on the man’s life.
Dave’s lucky streak holds, but as the rewards grow, so do the stakes. Luck and risk, after all, are two sides of a single coin, and as the bets become more extreme, pain or death could result if Dave’s luck eventually runs out.
Carter does fine work on the little details of his characters’ appearance and interactions. Dave Bolden is a likeable protagonist, the prose is engaging, and the novel’s pace leaves little time to consider the essential implausibility of its premise. Unfortunately, the narrative flow is broken whenever the author deviates from Dave’s point of view.
And because Dave’s luck holds out time after time, the novel’s conclusion is never in doubt. If you buy into the premise of the book, the ending is satisfying. If you find the pileup of coincidences begins to strain credulity, neither the climax nor the denouement will prove effective.