by Cynthia Chow
Details on how to win a copy of Hot Seat at the end of this post. Simon will be speaking along with Camille Minichino at the Fresno chapter of Sisters In Crime on Saturday, September 1, 2012. Reservations must be made by this Wednesday–learn more on their KRL event page. You will also find a video interview with Simon at the end of this review, recorded at Left Coast Crime.
I love fast cars. Between my father, my brother, and me, we own five V-8 Mustangs ranging from the years 1966-2011. My childhood memories consist of Sundays full of the background noise of televised car races that usually drove my mother out of the house for peace from the sounds of hours of monotonous revving engines.
However, while most Americans, including myself, probably associate professional car racing with NASCAR, in Europe it’s Formula One racing that dominates. Author Simon Wood takes readers into the blistering fast world of Formula One car racing with Hot Seat, the sequel to Did Not Finish, which introduced fledging driver Aidy Westlake. Recently hired as a driver for Ragged Racing by the owner Richard Ragsdale after being named Pit Lane Magazine’s Young Driver of the Year, Aidy still struggles to stop living under the shadow of his father, a promising race car driver who ironically died in a car crash with Aidy’s mother. Fortunately, Aidy receives considerable support and guidance from his grandfather Stevie, a former Formula One pit crew member and owner of a classic-sports car restoration business. Where the mercurial Aidy responds with emotion first and thoughts later, Stevie provides a calming influence and prevents Aidy from ever acting too rashly.
Before Aidy has a chance to bask in his success, he literally stumbles over the dying body of Jason Gates, the mechanic for a rival racing team. The police target Aidy as their primary suspect and it’s not long before the victim’s loan-shark brother kidnaps Aidy and offers him a deal he can’t refuse; infiltrate the teams to uncover the murderer and prove his own innocence or have the people he loves most pay the price.
While attempting to prove his worth as a driver to his team, Aidy is squeezed in on all sides, especially when a British Customs agent jumps on the bandwagon to incriminate Aidy in order to force him to work uncover as a snitch (apparently, this was based on a terrifying incident that the author actually experienced). Luckily, Aidy has his best friend Dylan and Stevie for help and provide backup to cover him from the police, the mob, and the team’s demanding owner.
The most engaging part of the mystery occurs when Wood immerses the reader into the world of Formula One racing. With his own considerable experience as race car driver, Woods shares details about sponsorships, how drivers feel and navigate turns, and especially how teammates on the same crew both support and compete with one another. These details help to create a completely unique and fascinating novel. Woods does an incredible job at creating a sympathetic hero who is torn between doing what he loves and being forced into an investigation that distracts from and threatens his career.
Poor Aidy is continually hammered on all sides by those forcing him to investigate, and his reactions seesaw between paralyzing fear, brash arrogance with empty threats, and recklessness. Perhaps, though, much of that can be explained by the jockey-sized Aidy being only twenty-one and still feeling the loss of both his parents. This series definitely has a unique perspective into a world rarely portrayed in mysteries, and it’s one I would happily delve into again.
To enter to win a copy of Hot Seat, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Seat”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 1, 2012. U.S. residents only.
Watch for a new video interview with Simon coming soon!