In Driven, by Dane Cobain, James Leipfold, a down-on-his-luck private investigator, sticks his nose into a strange hit-and-run case. A car strikes and kills Donna Thompson, a waitress walking home after hours. A driverless car, to be exact. Was it an accident? A software glitch? Or murder? Leipfold and Detective Inspector Jack Cholmondeley work on different aspects of the case and occasionally coordinate their findings. As Leipfold begins his investigation, he picks up Maile O’Hara, a computer whiz, as an unpaid assistant.
According to Cobain: “Maile and Leipfold live in a London that’s similar to, but not identical to our own. It’s a London where the villains are straight from the pages of a comic book, where the heroes are unusual (but normal) people struggling to do the best they can in the knowledge that life doesn’t always turn out like it does in storybooks.” Is this the reason that Leipfold feels like an intruder in his own neighborhood? And why he feels the people have changed? Certain characters in Driven are single dimension, underdeveloped stereotypes such as Eleanor Thompson, Donna’s mother. She is snarly and uncooperative, period.
Cobain creates a showdown scene towards the end of Driven similar to Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series. The suspects, police, and press congregate for a confrontation with the “great” detective. Maile O’Hara functions in a similar fashion to Archie Goodwin in the Nero Wolfe novels. They are both actors in the crime detection but are kept in the dark by the detectives as to how the puzzle pieces fit together to corner the perpetrator.
There are a few inconsistencies – at one point, Leipfold surreptitiously records a conversation with Eleanor Thompson, a suspect – supposedly on a Dictaphone. Really? In the age of smartphones? A few pages later Leipfold is asked by James Cholmondeley, his police inspector friend, whether he recorded a conversation with Ms. Thompson (Donna’s mother). Leipfold then pats the “phone” in his pocket. Hmm. Later in the story, Leipfold texts Maile on his phone. Yes, Dictaphone made, and most likely still makes, dictation equipment. But I doubt whether the company makes a voice recorder application or a texting application for smartphones, though I may be wrong.
On the whole, Driven held my attention and I look forward to Leipfold and O’Hara’s further adventures and development as well-rounded idiosyncratic characters and a dynamic detective duo.
by Dane Cobain
Encircle Publications, LLC