Author: Dakota Franklin
Genre: Racing Thriller
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Le Mans is thrilling both on and off the track.
American race car driver and engineer Mallory thinks her career is over after a bad crash. When an elite European racing organization offers her a job, she eagerly accepts. But in the high-stakes world of international racing, ethics and even the law mean little to those seeking an edge. Soon Mallory is thrust into a dangerous investigation that may cost her a lot more than her career.
Before I started this book, I knew nothing about elite racing. I did have a cursory knowledge of NASCAR, but that mostly came from reading the occasional article and watching a few minutes of a race now and again. In fact, I don't even currently have a driver's license. To complete my blasphemy against all things automotive and high-powered, I should note that I think the automatic transmission is a wonderful invention.
I mention all of this because I want to make it clear that driving, in general, just doesn't interest me much. In my perfect world, a robot car would drive me from point A to point B. All the thrill that's supposed to accompany the control of high-speed vehicles just makes me shrug.
That's why it was so surprising to me that a book centered on auto racing so thoroughly seduced me. Heck, I hadn't even heard of the Le Mans race before, despite it being the oldest active (if not most prestigious) auto endurance racing event.
Characterization forms the core strength of the novel. We're granted a clear and engaging POV via Mallory as she deals with her transition from being a broken down racing pariah to a valued member of an elite organization. She's a likable and proactive lead with just enough vulnerability to add appropriate weight to the more emotional parts of the narrative.
In addition Mallory is surrounded by a well-rounded and well-developed group of distinct and realistic personalities. Depending on one's sensibilities, some of these characters may not be particularly likable (they take "Ruthless to Win" seriously), but they are all interesting.
Although there are some departures to deal with Mallory's romantic interests and her general growth in her new racing organization, the primary plot focuses on a well-constructed and tension-filled mystery concerning a traitor among the racing organization staff. This plot is, in turn, threads into an actual Le Mans endurance race.
Considering I find watching auto racing dreadfully dull, I fully expected to find reading about it to be downright painful. Instead, I was able to experience the tension, excitement, and chess-like calculation involved in endurance racing. The book finally made me begin to understand what people see in auto racing, a triumph of both writing and accessibility. Even if you're all but completely ignorant about racing and/or cars (like myself), the narrative relates what you need to know without being intrusive. Indeed, the only vaguely expository thing I found questionable was the tendency to explicitly explain the American equivalent of various British words, but I can easily imagine someone less versed in such things being irritated if they weren't explained.
No matter how you feel about racing, if you're looking for a fresh thriller, you should definitely check out this book.
Le Mans is available at Amazon.
Le Mans is available at Amazon.