cover image Driving Lessons

Driving Lessons

Ed McBain. Carroll & Graf Publishers, $11.95 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-0805-5

When 16-year-old student driver Rebecca Patton hits a woman who steps off the curb into her path one afternoon in the town of River Close, Rebecca's driving instructor, Andrew Newell, is in big trouble. Though Newell passes a Breathalyzer test, he can barely stand on his feet and doesn't know his name--he's obviously high on something. So begins this riveting novella from one of America's finest crime writers. When the police question Newell, he denies taking any drugs and demands to see a lawyer. Will the authorities be able to test him for drugs before the evidence leaves his bloodstream? Meanwhile, the victim lies unidentified in critical condition at the local hospital. Then a witness returns to the accident scene and finds the woman's purse hanging in a tree. Just as the police learn from the victim's driver's license that she's Mary Beth Newell, the driving instructor's wife, word comes from the hospital that she's dead. McBain takes a fairly simple scenario--what appears to be a case of vehicular manslaughter--and develops it into a complex tale of human frailty, with nary a wasted word. Detective Katie Logan later discovers that Mary Beth had just left the Roman Catholic church on the street where the car struck her. Father McDowell won't betray the confidences of the confessional, but his inadvertant admission that Mary Beth had problems is enough to put Logan on the guilty party's trail. The truth is as shocking as it is unexpected. (Sept.)