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A search for birth parents is a common premise in fiction, but rarely has it been used as a basis for a mystery as convincing as Midnight Cab. The story begins in 1979, with the discovery of a mysteriously abandoned three-year-old boy, Walker Devereaux, at the side of a rural Ontario road. It quickly flashes forward to 1995, when Walker, now driving a cab in Toronto, has committed himself to a quest to discover his real identity and that of his parents. Nichol then shifts chronological gears again, back to 1961, where we meet budding young psychopath Bobby Nuremborski. The stories of Walker and Bobby are told alternately, but not until we are halfway through the book do we glimpse their inevitable confrontation. From there, the tale continues through numerous surprising twists and turns, as Nichol masterfully ratchets up the suspense. Balancing the bone-chilling evocation of evil in Midnight Cab is the heartwarming depiction of the romance unfolding between Walker and his wheelchair-bound cab dispatcher, Krista.
Nichol first introduced Walker and Krista in his popular Midnight Cab series of CBC Radio dramas in the early 1990s. Given that background, and Nichol's experience as a playwright, it's no surprise that his dialogue is sharp. His prose style is crisp, too, and often poetic, as in "an invisible drizzle that immediately started to bead like tiny diamonds on his grey wool jacket." It actually seems a shame that Nichol, an exceptional talent, took so long to produce his first novel. This Midnight Cab can indeed be hailed--as a superb read. --Kerry Doole
Adapted from a popular Canadian radio drama, this light, engaging first novel by playwright Nichol is a coming-of-age story steeped in mystery. Abandoned by the roadside at the age of three, 19-year-old Walker Devereaux sets off to find his birth parents with the aid of only two clues: a photo of his mother as a child and a cryptic letter to her from her best friend. In pursuit of his past, he leaves his adoptive family and girlfriend in Big River and moves to Toronto, where he finds work on the graveyard shift at a cab company. He falls in with his dispatcher, the attractive, wheelchair-bound Krista Papadopoulos. Together, they follow the trail of Walker's parents as it leads from Toronto's chic Forest Hill neighborhood to the shores of Lake Erie and finally to Kingston, Jamaica. Nichol weaves in the story of Bobby, an animal-torturing, Hannibal Lechter–like character who Walker must confront if he is to learn his family's dark past. In an attempt to dissuade them from probing further, Bobby sets Krista's car on fire and kills Walker's cat, Kerouac. Undeterred, Walker soldiers on. Nichol's instincts as a playwright serve him well. The dialogue between Walker and Krista is quick and playful, and though the suspense rarely builds to Hitchcockian heights, the novel is well paced and the pages turn quickly.
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