Driving race cars has more to do with strategy than chasing dead men, or so most would think. Not so for protagonist Kate Reilly, a young aspiring race car driver who manages to stumble upon a dead race car driver and in so doing, lands herself a spot in the race itself. Fishy? A tad.
This is what makes Long Beach author Tammy Kaehler's novel Dead Man's Switch so appealing. We all have dreams, aspirations, places we'd like to end up, or competitions we'd give anything to win. But Kaehler's novel brings up that age old question: is winning worth killing for?
With little time to grieve or even recover from the shock of discovering infamous race car driver Wade Becker's body, Kate goes from dedicated racecar fan and apprentice to actual driver in the time it takes to fasten a seatbelt. She is thrown into a driving schedule that includes dinners, meet and greets with sponsors, and little time for practice, all the while fielding questioning looks from other drivers and fans who supsect her of murdering Wade to improve her chances of scoring a ride.
But Kaehler's novel is more than just a murder investigation. It is also a rare glimpse into the world of race car driving, a sport watched and loved by thousands and experienced by a select few. Very few writers have been able to pull the curtain back on the race car driving world in the way that Kaehler has, and the amount of detail that went into creating scenes depicted on and off the racetrack was perhaps the most enjoyable part of the novel.
The overall tone of the novel was farily simplistic, making the novel a good fit for a young adult audience, despite a few curse words here and there. From time to time Kate's character also came off as a protagonist you might see in a Disney movie; adventurous, daring, and still one to be rooted for. Rarely, however, has a murder mystery used such a wildly entertaining sport as its backdrop, making it one of the most unique books I've read all year.