“I smelled race day: fuel mixed with hot metal, rubber and concrete, plus a dash of sweat, sunscreen and cigarette smoke. There was nothing like it.” -Braking Points by Tammy Kaehler (page 211).
I haven’t been in the mood to read recently. That isn’t odd for me- I am usually feast or famine when it comes to reading. Even though I love to get lost in a good book and often just want to read read read it’s not uncommon that I then go through a stretch where I don’t want to read or nothing seems to hold my interest. That is exactly where I have been lately (oddly enough my writing is the same way- I either have a lot of ideas and struggle write them all down fast enough before they leave my brain or conversely I sit there with a blank page and a pen and just blink at it). I still wasn’t in the mood when I was offered a complimentary copy of the book Braking Points by Tammy Kaelher to read and possibly review for my BadGroove readers. I took the offer however because I was somewhat intrigued by the brief synopsis of the storyline that was in the email- it sounded like something I would like and it sounded right up the alley of this website. Little did I know that I was accepting to read a book that I would not only end up loving but would ignite again in me the read read read feast part of my personality.
As I mentioned I thought Braking Points would not only be a book that I would possibly like but that you my readers would like and I still stand by that after reading it. You will probably be surprised to find out that Braking Points is actually not set in the NASCAR world – the heroine Kate Reilly is a race car driver in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). We enter Kate’s world at Road America in Wisconsin- where during the race she sends a popular NASCAR driver pulling double duty in ALMS to the hospital in an on track incident. Then during her post race interview Kate ends up going off on camera, provoked by an extremely upset fan of said NASCAR driver. The end of her day finds Kate reconnecting with two friends from back in her Skip Barber Formula series days at a local tavern, only to finder her boy friend in the parking lot of the tavern a couple hours later with one of those friends, only that friend is dead.
Don’t worry though- that is just the warm-up lap for this face paced race of a novel. Kate soon finds herself having to deal with throngs of angry, hateful NASCAR fans – one of which may be trying to kill her, rumors that her spot on her racing team isn’t as secure as she thought, an anonymous racing insider/blogger who seems to take great delight in making Kate look bad, and a new huge sponsorship that Kate isn’t quite sure how she fits with- all while finding the time to prepare for the final race in the ALMS series (Road Atlanta). I don’t want to give up too much of the storyline but Kate is struggling to figure out not just who killed her friend but who she can trust. It’s a definite whodunit and if you are anything like I am you will change your mind about who the murderer is about a million times during the book (OK not a million times but there wasn’t a character in the book I didn’t suspect at some point or another).
One of my favorite things about the book is the character of Kate herself. I liked that she is human. It would be really easy to take a female race car driver and just make her into this too perfect and too strong person where everything goes right and well for her. I like the fact that Kate sometimes questions herself- her abilities as a driver, how she fits with her new sponsor, her lifestyle and ability to have a boyfriend with the kind of career she wants. It makes Kate very realistic- very human.
I know it may sound from my description that NASCAR fans are painted poorly in the story but trust me- they really are not. Neither are all bloggers- thank goodness or I might have been offended since I am one! I really think that NASCAR fans or really race fans of any series, or mystery fans alike will enjoy this book. I know I certainly did.
Do note that Braking Points is the second book in a series. That being said it reads extremely well as a stand alone novel- which is how I read it- but you may want to pick up Tammy Kaelher’s first book Dead Man’s Switch and them in order. I know I plan to pick up Dead Man’s Switch VERY soon. Then I will be waiting for the third book in the series because I have a feeling that Racing’s Ringer (the anonymous blogger) might make a visit in that novel too- (I do not know that for certain- that is just me guessing based on Braking Points alone).
Some information on the author: Before becoming an author Tammy Kaehler had an established career writing marketing materials and technical documentation (hey I do that in my day job too). She was working in marketing for a company that became a ALMS sponsor- and went to a race to help with their hospitality and soon found herself hooked! She is currently working on the third installment of the Kate Reilly Racing Mystery series and plans for more books to come. You can visit her website at TammyKaehler.com to find out more information about Tammy.
I know it sounds hateful of NASCAR fans but it really isn’t- trust me!
–A side note: I LOVED the quote that I picked up at the top because it reminds me of an experience I had at an ALMS race at Laguna Seca. I had been strolling the paddock area with my parents- my mom had never been to a race before. She looked over at me and said “What’s that smell?” I answered her with “The smell of speed- and I love it!” She looked at me like I was slightly off my rocker but I know that it’s a smell race fans of any series knows well.
For “Full Disclosure” I was given a copy of Tammy’s book Braking Points for the purpose of reviewing it however the thoughts expressed in this review are honest and true. In addition was given nothing nor was I asked to review her first book- I bought that book because I liked this book.