Tammy Kaehler,
Dead Man's Switch
(Poisoned Pen, 2011)

A young woman, Kate Reilly, has been enamored with car racing since she was a little girl. Now, in her early 20s, she hangs around American Le Mans Series racetracks, hoping to learn as much as possible and pick up an occasional job as a substitute driver. She has been a good student and has learned much.

As Kate drives up to an ALMS track in Connecticut, she bumps into a barrel. She goes to check on possible damage to her car, and finds the body of Wade Becker, a veteran ALMS driver. That leaves Wade's team needing a driver, and Kate gets the job. Of course, some people think that looks a might suspicious, and gossip starts flying. The police identify Kate as a low-level suspect. The book follows Kate's attempts to do two things: win the race and clear her name of suspicion by identifying the killer of Wade Becker.

There is a good mystery here, with a solution that is neither too obvious nor too obscure. The characters and the setting are well described. Word usage, phrasing, grammar and editing are all fine, even if the vocabulary is not very sophisticated. The pace of the book is the one problem; racing aficionados might love this, but there is a large amount of detail related to the construction of the car, the layout of the track, the rules of ALMS racing and the behind-the-scenes aspects like dealing with sponsors.

One thing I liked most about this book was the ending. In Hollywood, this might end with Kate single-handedly winning the race and solving the mystery. I will not spoil the ending, except to say it is more realistic than Hollywood might make it.

book review by
Chris McCallister

29 October 2011

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