Kiss the Bricks

I really can’t recommend enough the remarkable series of mysteries written by Tammy Kaehler about professional racecar driver Kate Reilly. The series has now hit its fifth title, KISS THE BRICKS, and while each book has its highlights, the entirety of the series is just solid, well-rounded entertainment.

Kaehler knows auto racing and describes on-the-track action extremely well. She’s also adept at character development and a reader soon comes to adore and respect the strength of her main character. Reilly is a strong woman, but also cognizant of her weaknesses and the general fickleness of success in the racing world, giving her a believability that outweighs the general oddness of having a touring racing driver solve murder cases.

Because solve murder cases she does. In KISS THE BRICKS, Reilly is racing in her second Indianapolis 500, perhaps the most famous auto race in the world. Her new race team is jelling well but they’re still not amongst the top runners. Their goal is maybe to get a top fifteen finish. But when Kate goes out and sets fastest time of the day in the first practice session, it makes people take notice. And it brings up an ugly blast from the past. Apparently, 30 years ago in the 1987 race, a female driver named PJ Rodriguez also managed to score fast time on the first day of practice. The parallels drive a media frenzy.

But Rodriguez (who is a fictional character by the way, just in case you were wondering) never managed to actually make the race. Her performance in successive practices worsened, fans and even her teammates started to question her abilities, and Rodriguez took her own life by jumping off a tall building before she even managed to qualify for the race. Suicide. And the story starts people talking about Kate Reilly, thinking that maybe she isn’t mentally strong enough to drive in the race either.

Well, you know darn well it wasn’t suicide, don’t you? So Kate Reilly starts looking into the history of PJ Rodriguez and discovers that PJ didn’t have it easy with her teammates. Female racecar drivers are still, to this day, victims of rampant sexism and ignorant condescension about their abilities. As Reilly notes in the book, this isn’t so true in the world of sportscar racing (or the rarefied world of drag racing) where more women are to be found behind the wheel, but it’s still true to some extent in open wheel and stock car racing.

Kate Reilly has to face these demons today and it must have been even more difficult for PJ, 30 years before. So did she jump, or was she pushed? Who would benefit from a driver’s death? The case gets murkier when Kate starts getting threatening notes. Is Kate in danger? And can she afford to look into this at all when there’s an Indianapolis 500 to be run?

I just love these books. I grew up in an auto racing family and Kaehler just seems to nail all aspects of the racing culture and action. Her plotting is solid and straightforward. Her dialogue is spot-on. Her main character is very believable and likable. The series is just out and out fun to read. The first book was rather roughly edited but they have consistently improved with each subsequent volume. It’s a series you should have on your shelves. —Mark Rose

Get it at Amazon.

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