Wednesday, August 13, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Avoidable Contact by Tammy Kaehler


Racecar driver Kate Reilly is suited up and ready for the start of the legendary 24 Hours of Daytona. But what’s ahead will test her will and nerve more than any other endurance race.

Even before the green flag waves over Daytona International Speedway, Kate receives word her boyfriend Stuart is fighting for his life after a hit-and-run earlier in the day. Still reeling from that news, Kate must absorb other shocks in the race’s opening hours, including an on-track accident with tragic consequences and an eyewitness who claims Stuart was run down deliberately by someone from the race paddock.

Alternating stints behind the wheel of her Corvette racecar with stretches of quizzing colleagues and searching for clues, Kate taps every possible source—friend, foe, and family—to find out who’s after Stuart and why. As the race clock counts down to zero hour, Kate must come to terms with her own fears about the past and decide whom she’s willing to trust. Only then can she identify who’s willing to kill to keep a secret buried—and stop them before they lash out again.



I appreciate the author's inclusion of a 'map' of the Daytona racetrack to help visualize the shape of the track and follow along with Ms. Kaehler's detailed descriptions of the layout.  The only bone I have to pick about the book concerns all the racing jargon in the first chapters, where the book read a little more like a guide for racing fans, than a novel.  But at least half of that is on me, because racing is not a sport we follow closely in my family.

Once the story started, that issue was laid to rest.  I appreciated the descriptions of how the drivers visualized the driver changes, much like I used to do on the stage, or you hear about other professional athletes "seeing" their shots.  And can you imagine racing for 24 hours straight???  Talk about endurance!

Kate was an extremely personable character.  She wasn't an angel, but then who of us is?  Kate's father is at the track, and to start, she wants little to do with him.  And other members of her extended family -a half-sister, two cousins and an uncle are working for other teams in the race.  The uncle and cousins are of the sort that you would probably want to give them a piece of your mind if you ever came across them - and nasty with it.  But, maybe in response to some of the things that go on (her boyfriend being critically injured in an off-track hit-and-run the morning of the race, and the 'avoidable contact' accident caused by an amateur driver with disastrous consequences) she begins to warm to her step-sister and father.  Her father even winds up knocking his brother to the ground over threats and vicious names he calls Kate.

It wasn't my usual cozy mystery with a craft shop or restaurant of some sort.  But the situations - family atmosphere of some of the teams, rivalries, jealousies, greed, etc. - can be found in many books I have enjoyed.  The racing atmosphere was definitely a new one for me, but I liked it.  And I have a whole new respect for people involved in the sport.  The concentration needed, the accuracy involved and the split-second decisions all make for a very exciting book!

There are three "Kate Reilly Mysteries":  Dead Man's Switch, Braking Point, and Avoidable Contact.  I hope there will be a fourth.  I want to find out what happens with Stuart!



Tammy Kaehler’s career in marketing and technical writing landed her in the world of automobile racing, which inspired her with its blend of drama, competition, and friendly people. Mystery fans and racing insiders alike praised the first two Kate Reilly Racing Mysteries, Dead Man’s Switch and Braking Points, and she takes readers back behind the wheel for the third time in Avoidable Contact. Tammy works as a technical writer in the Los Angeles area, where she lives with her husband and many cars.



I Have That Question Too

When readers talk to authors, they usually want to know the answers to a few basic questions. I’m no different. I want to know how other authors work … and just maybe I’m looking for the magic solution that will make writing books easy-as-pie. (Hope springs eternal?)

It might surprise readers to know that some authors hate answering the big question, “Where do you get your ideas?” Why? It’s a tough question to answer, because there’s no one method and often no simple explanation. I’ve heard responses of “everywhere,” “nowhere,” and “from the vending machine you don’t know about.” And as flip as they might sound, all are likely to be the truth! (Not that I know how to find the vending machine.)

My answer goes something like this: I get my ideas from putting all kinds of random information into my brain, forgetting half the details, and mushing a bunch of ideas together. It’s a bit like putting a lot of ingredients into a blender and ending up with a smoothie that’s a combination of everything. You could say I have strawpricotanagurt ideas.

The other big category of questions we get asked have to do with creating characters—and personally, I like talking about characters more than talking about overall ideas, probably because creating characters is a more straightforward (and simple) process than creating a robust plot.

Just like other fans and readers, I’m also always curious to know how much of the author is in the characters? How much are people the author knows—and which ones? The corollary I’m often asked is how many of my characters are real people in the racing world? What I always want to know is what the germ of the character idea was—did it start with that extra quirk—or two—that makes the character so charming, irritating, or laugh-out-loud funny? Or did the character start more “normal” and get the hook later?

I say characters are easier to talk about, but in my experience, like plot ideas, there’s also no one answer to where characters come from. Sometimes characters come to us out of the ether. Sometimes they come to us from real life. What I do most often is mash-up a bit of this person here and some of that person there, plus a dash of something unrelated to either one. Sometimes I build a character on a single attribute I find amusing or interesting about a real-life person—or on the inverse of a real person’s distinguishing characteristic.

What I find intriguing about the whole character-creation process is that the resulting character is never anything like the original inspiration. As much as I might base a character on a living, breathing human, what happens next is I stop thinking about the real person and focus only the character. I’ve had plenty of people say to me that a character in my book was exactly like someone in real life—which astonished me, because I never once thought about that real-life person when writing. I’d simply picked a couple traits from three very different people and let my imagination flow from there.

There’s another reason my characters are guaranteed to do something totally different than the real person would do. Most of the time, I don’t know the real person I’ve stolen a feature or habit from. We might be acquaintances, but I don’t know them well enough to actually describe them. I figure that makes it safe for me to “steal” distinguishing features from real people, because I’ll never be copying their entire personality or persona entirely.

The bottom line here, I’m afraid, is that no one around me is safe. (Welcome to being friends with a writer!) Anyone I know or meet might find themselves a character in my books—though I suppose the consolation is you might not ever know it….

And by the way, if you know of any great, irritating, or confounding personality traits, physical characteristics, or tics, let me know. I could use more material!


(Disclosure:  I received an e-copy of "Avoidable Contact" from the author and publisher via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.)


  1. I agree with your points. Normally we observe & write. Sometimes, we just imagine & people say that there are people like that!
    Nicely expressed.

    I have posted the movie- Mary Kom's review. As you were keen to read it, sharing the link here for you :