“Dad was a purist. His interest began and ended with formula cars. Me, I was more like my racing hero, Jim Clark. He was a double Formula One champion, but he’d driven everything- sports cars, saloon cars, NASCAR and even rally cars. While my dream was to reach Formula One, I’d drive anything.” Hot Seat by Simon Wood.
I was introduced to Simon Wood’s books by association. I posted reviews for Tammy Kaehler’s Kate Reilly Racing books earlier this year (Dead Man’s Switch and Braking Points). Tammy also blogs about motorsports over at Two For The Road- a blog she shares with Simon Wood (who is a former race car driver) and it was reading this blog that made me look up Simon’s books (he has quite a few books- but so far there are just the two in the Aidy Westlake Mystery series- which are racing related so that was logically where I started).
The first book of the Aidy Westlake Mystery series is Did Not Finish and it is here where we are introduced to Aidy, a youngish racer driving in the Formula Ford series in England. Aidy and his best friend Dylan- who is also half of his put crew (the other half consists of his grandfather Steve) pull into Stowe Park race circuit the night before a race. While at the track’s clubhouse (bar) enjoying the company of other drivers the night before the race, Aidy hears a rumor from a fellow driver that a Derek Deacon, a competitor in the running for a record Formula Ford championship, threatened the life of Alex Fanning a driver also in the running for that championship. Thinking it was just an incident of smack talking between two fierce competitors, Aidy doesn’t put much stock in the threat. Until, that is, Derek and Alex make wheel-to-wheel contact (very dangerous in open-wheel racing) during the race and Alex ends up dying as a result of the contact. Aidy can not let go of the very fact that Derek said that Alex was a “dead man” prior to the race and now he was. Desiring only the truth to what happened and justice for a competitor he hardly knew, Aidy ends up drawn further and further into an extremely tangled web of cover-ups and conspiracy that puts not only his own life in danger- but that of both Steve and Derek as well.
“‘Motor racing robbed my wife and me of our son. Alison lost her husband-to-be. We should be crusading for the end of motorsport, but I know how important racing was to Alex. He knew the risks and still he raced.’” Did Not Finish, Simon Wood
I don’t want to give away too many plot points of the book but while Aidy has his mind mostly made up that Derek caused Alex’s death, as the reader I suspected nearly every character at some point during the book with the exception of Aidy’s grandfather Steve and Aidy himself. The surprise plot twists drew me into the book and had me wondering from lap to lap (the book is divided into the laps instead of chapters- another part of it’s charm) what was going to happen next. It truly made the book hard to put down.
One of my favorite things about this book was that it delves into Aidy’s childhood a bit- we find out that he was raised from a young age by Steve because his parents died in an automobile accident. We also find out that Aidy’s father was a race car driver as well who worked his way up through the series, finally landing a F1 ride only to die in the car accident on the way to his first race. While Aidy is trying to discover the truth about Alex’s death- he is surprised at how much he is still effected by the death of his parents even though they have been gone for more than half of his young life. I adored the dynamic between Aidy, his grandfather Steve, and his best friend Dylan and I found that this dynamic made Aidy a likeable character who was “normal” enough to relate to personally.
I enjoyed Did Not Finish so much that I actually read another book (also by Simon Wood if that tells you something) before moving onto the second book in the Aidy Westlake Mystery series. I know that sounds weird- but when I really like a book that is part of a series I tend to want to hoard the last story because I know (or at least hope) I will like it as I have the others and don’t want to have to wait for the next one. I guess you could say I am not patient like that. I have done this with other books in series that I enjoy and I had a strong inclination to want to hoard Hot Seat and not read it until the NEXT Aidy Westlake book was out but I thought the better of it- mostly because I wanted to share these books with my readers.
In Hot Seat we find that Aidy has graduated from Formula Fords to the European Saloon Car Championship series after winning Pit Lane Magazine’s Promising Driver of the Year. As Aidy is leaving his pre-season media introduction (in my head I likened it to the Daytona Speedweeks Media Day- only less of a circus), he walks by his team hauler and stops for a second to look at it. A real team race hauler with his name on the side- he was finally going somewhere. It was there that Aidy discovers a man laying near his new team’s transporter bleeding profusely from the neck. Aidy tries to save the man, whom he did not know, but his efforts are futile. Aidy soon finds himself in a police station under suspicion of murder and later finds out that the dead man was Jason Gates, a mechanic for a rival Saloon team.
“‘What’s grown up about motor racing?‘” Hot Seat by Simon Wood
The plot of Hot Seat did not disappoint. Aidy is greatly disturbed witnessing Jason Gate’s death firsthand as any normal person would be. Aidy is coerced by Gate’s somewhat shady brother Andrew to find out who murdered Jason, but Aidy is also driven to see it through for himself. Another story with major plot twists, it was easy to find myself incredibly engaged in Hot Seat, which made for a very quick read. I especially enjoyed the character development of Steve, Aidy’s grandfather, as the story progressed all the way through the very end of this book. While Aidy is still very much the central hero of the story- the development of Steve brings new layers to his relationship with Aidy, and I think Aidy’s relationship and views of his grandfather which enriches both the characters and the book as a whole.
If you can’t tell already- I adored both books. The racing is engrained in both novels in such a way that it makes sense instead of being a mystery that takes place at a race track kind of thing. This NASCAR fan is a huge Aidy Westlake fan and can hardly wait to see the next step in his career as well as the next adventure as only Aidy seems to be able to find himself in. I loved these books and if you like mysteries and/or racing I think you will too.
About The Author: Simon Wood is a prolific writer in the thriller/mystery genre as well as the horror genre under the nom d plum Simon Janus. He’s also written numerous short stories and magazine articles. He is an ex-race car driver (I love this quote from his biography on his website: Motor racing was a bitch of a habit to kick. Cocaine would have been a cheaper addiction.) and a licensed pilot who’s not a fan of heights (maybe there is hope for me yet!), and has an adorable long-haired doxie named Royston. You can find out more about him at his website: simonwood.net
For “Full Disclosure” Purposes (I’m looking at you FTC): I bought both of these books because I wanted to read them- I was not asked to review them by anyone. I just liked them that much that I wanted to share them with my readers.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.