Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Book Review: Dead Man's Switch by Tammy Kaehler (Kate Reilly Racing Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good mystery; great climax
Cons: Too much racing info; characters a little underdone
The Bottom Line:
Racing series starts
With a book that needs some tweaks
Not bad, but not great

Kate's Big Racing Break is Murder

A couple years ago, I was chatting with an author I love at a book festival and started chatting with the author next to her as well.  The result was that I bought Dead Man's Switch, a book I probably would have passed on otherwise.  After all, I'm not much of a sports guy and definitely not into racing.  That may have hampered my enjoyment of the book, although this debut wasn't quite ready for a victory lap either way.

Kate Reilly is going from track to track in the American Le Mans Series, hoping that being in the right place at the right time will land her a permanent job racing.  Sadly, it also lands her at the wrong place at the wrong time when she finds the body of Wade Becker under her car.  The silver lining in this cloud is that she gets his spot on the racing team.

However, she also lands on the official and unofficial suspect list for Wade's murder.  Not only are the police interested in her whereabouts and motives, but rumors on the track are swirling as well.  So Kate takes it upon herself to investigate Wade's death.  The more she investigates, the more she learns that Wade wasn't a nice man with too many enemies.  Can she find the killer before her reputation is dead while still being ready to race?

Now, the author knows she will have many people picking up the book who don't know anything about racing, and she goes out of her way to make sure we are comfortable with the terms.  In fact, I think she goes a little too much out of her way.  There are long passages that are exposition talking about racing terms, track conditions, strategy, and the like.  It isn't too clumsy, but it definitely could have been cut down to give mystery readers what they want.

The mystery was much better.  We had several viable suspects, all of who seemed like logical choices at one time or another.

However, the characters could have been better overall.  Kate and one or two others were fully formed, but the rest never quite took on a life of their own.  They are just shy of being real enough for me.

Things do come together for the climax, which features a great racing scene that I actually found myself caring about and a solution to the mystery that was perfectly logical.

Honestly, I think this book could have been a little better with just one more draft.  Tightening up the plot and fleshing out the characters just a tad would have made it much better.

As it is, Dead Man's Switch turns out to be an average debut.  If the subject interests you, give it a spin, but there's not reason to race out to get it.

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