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Dead Man’s Switch by Tammy Kaehler

Dead Man’s Switch” is the first in a new “Kate Reilly Racing Mystery.” The book was published Aug. 2 by Poisoned Pen Press as is a good example of the well designed and edited books that this publishing house puts out. I received a review copy to read just prior to the publication date.

Kate Reilly is a wanna-be American Le Mans Series (ALMS) race car driver who follows the teams around to every race in hopes that she will get a ride.  She got a taste of being a team member the previous season when a third driver was needed for one of the longer races and she acquitted herself well.  Everyone knows Kate can drive and is a quick study, but in this male-dominated sport, few expect that Kate will actually get a permanent ride.

When Kate finds experienced but unlikeable  racer, Wade Becker,  dead on the track as she about to do a practice run, the police first need to rule Kate out as a suspect.  She is subjected to suspicion from other drivers and their groupies long after the police rule her out as a suspect, especially when she is selected as Wade’s replacement.

As often happens in well written mysteries, there are so many possible suspects that it is difficult to crack the case any earlier than Kate does.  She has a second case to crack and she’s a little faster at solving that one: the onboard computer systems are being tampered with on some teams’ cars.  Is this related to Wade’s death?  Has Wade been blackmailing certain drivers, and is that a reason for his untimely death?

There is a lot of racing detail.  Those who like to watch Le Mans style road racing will look at this book like an insider’s manual to the sport.  Those who have no interest in racing may still appreciate this book because of its strong and interesting protagonist, Kate Reilly.  Picture Danika Patrick in a Corvette and you get the picture!

For me, there was maybe a bit more racing detail than I needed to read, but then I found Kate a really interesting character and one that will be fun to follow in future entries into this series.

The author, Tammy Kaehler, is a technical writer who had an opportunity to work in the world of racing corporate hospitality and obviously absorbed a great deal of the aura of racing, the personalities that are stereotypical of the people who work in that field, and the routines that teams go through to get ready for a race.  Kaehler does a great job of bringing her technical knowledge in to the creative world of mystery writing.  Job well done!

Liz Nichols

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Cat Sitter among the Pigeons by Blaize Clement

Cat Sitter among the Pigeons” is Sarasota, FL native, Blaize Clement’s 6th Dixie Hemingway Mystery. It’s a particularly well written Minotaur Books edition and it will cause me to go back and review the earlier titles in the series. I think I’ve read one or two before, but I haven’t reviewed any of them.

The protagonist, Dixie Hemingway, is a former police deputy who now makes her living taking care of other people’s pets.  She notes that she stops short of pet sitting for snakes because it is unpleasant to feed poor innocent mice into the gaping jaws of a snake.  On the other hand, she spends lots of quality time pampering lonely cats and dogs for owners in the Sarasota area who are out of town or incapacitated.

Dixie meets a young woman and her 4 month old baby at the home of one of her elderly clients one day and ends up being kidnapped after she leaves that house.  She is mistaken for the young mother, Ruby, the granddaughter of Dixie’s client.  She is bound and taken several miles out of town to the estate of a wealthy area businessman and then let go at a nearby coffee shop when the businessman tells his incompetent henchmen that Dixie is the wrong woman.  Later, the bedroom Ruby and her baby, Opal, are staying in at the old man’s house is set on fire and the baby is kidnapped.  Dixie and the young woman’s estranged husband, a race car driver, and several of his friends, go after the people that Dixie suspects are behind the kidnapping.

There are several qualities that I particularly like about this book.  First, her writing style in humorous, and that makes it particularly easy to read the novel.  Secondly, the characters are appealing and well-crafted so that the reader really gets in to how these characters think and why they act as they do.  It leaves the reader really caring about Ruby and Zack getting back together and seeing Dixie happy again following her grief in the loss of her husband and daughter.  The descriptions of the Sarasota area are lushly descriptive.  It is easy to see why Dixie does not want to leave even if it means breaking up with her detective boyfriend, Guidry when he receives an invitation to return to his native city, New Orleans, for a job. Dixie, as she self-describes, is who she is because of her roots in Sarasota and Siesta Key off Sarasota’s coast.

Clement’s writing would make anyone long for the white, sandy beaches of Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Liz Nichols




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