In this start to a brand new mystery series, horror and mystery veteran Simon Wood takes the traditional amateur sleuth approach by introducing young race car driver Aidy Westlake in his novel Did Not Finish. On the eve of a race in a small regional British circuit, Aidy overhears thuggish driver Derek Deacon's threat against his teammate Alex, who's a much better (and dangerously aggressive) driver and likely to win not only the race but the circuit championship. Fact is, just about every driver has heard Derek's threat by race time, and ignored it as a typical bluster. Meanwhile, Alex has casually confessed to Aidy that he is planning to retire from racing to surprise his fiancée, who's not enamored of the sport.
When Derek’s dangerous race maneuver causes a crash that indeed kills Alex, Aidy is convinced the threat was followed through, because the slick thug also sails to victory in the race and the championship, which brings with it serious sponsorship money. Stubbornly, Aidy is driven to prove that Derek murdered the competing driver, especially when witnessing Derek's smugness. Aidy's father, a champion Formula One driver in the making had been killed in an accident that claimed both him and Aidy's mom, so the young sleuth sets out―with the help of his grandfather Steve and his buddy Dylan―to investigate the accident he believes is a crime.
The fact that the official race footage has been scrubbed, Alex's wrecked car suddenly disappears before it can be examined, and that Derek seems opposed to Aidy’s investigation in every step, all points to a conspiracy. But why? The headstrong young driver is even more determined to seek justice when he finds himself attracted to Alison, Alex's fiancée, despite her father's disapproval. Meanwhile, Derek's methods grow more overt, and the local police detective who's assigned to the case appears to be in cahoots with the arrogant driver.
Crafting this traditional and yet unusual mystery, Wood relies on his own race car driving experience to create a searing realism that sets it apart. There's a charming, almost Hardy Boys quality to Aidy's investigative efforts and his dogged intention to avenge his friend and bring the killer to justice, but this doesn't hamper any of the proceedings and in fact provides part of its distinctive character. Here's hoping Aidy Westlake will return to solve other racing-related crimes.
Simon Wood (Accidents Waiting to Happen, Paying the Piper, Terminated) continues to produce compelling thrillers, mysteries, and the occasionally horror, as both himself and Simon Janus, and is well-worth adding to your To Read list.