Common Themes: Mysteries and Cars

It’s a classic scene. The young woman is driving down a twisting road with her long blonde hair streaming behind her, and suddenly, she realizes she’s going too fast. She slams her feet down on the Corvette brakes, but nothing happens – the brake lines have been cut!

For my last “common themes” list of the year, I offer five mysteries with cars involved in them:

1) Swapping Paint: A Stock Car Racing Mystery, by Jim Lavene
2) The Muscle Car Mystery: From the Case Files of Private Investigator James Mitchell, by M. L. Angell
3) The Keys To The Car, by Robert P. Robertson
4) Last Car to Elysian Fields, by James Lee Burke
5) The Clue of the Phantom Car, by Bruce Campbell

Many car-related mysteries are in series, of course, and most seem to be targeted toward young readers, probably to attract boys to books (this is a guess), so I decided to give you a double list, and mention some of my favorite cars in fiction.

My favorite fictional car is probably the title “character” in Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang, which was written by Ian Fleming, the man who created James Bond. His fondness for cool gadgets is evident even in this classic work of children’s fiction.

Cars in detective fiction include poor V. I. Warshawski’s vehicke, which is forever being left in odd places, and never seems to work terribly well, and then there’s also Harry Dresden’s Blue Beetle. (These two characters belong to Sara Paretsky and Jim Butcher, respectively.)

In one of my favorite books ever, two of the characters, Lily the female chessmaster and Nim, the mysterious mentor, both have ragtop sports cars and like to drive with the top down in winter, which behavior I completely fail to understand.

Although, I completely understand the appeal of ragtops in general.
At least, when it’s warm.

Home away from Home

If Barnes and Nobel was closer, it might well become my second home. It’s already my favorite weekend destination. Oh, we have a library in the neighborhood, and I used to be a frequent haunter of libraries, but used books smell funny, and I don’t like to have to give things back.

We have a new Borders that is slightly closer than the B&N, but I don’t really like it as well, and no, it’s not because they serve non-Starbucks coffee. It’s just…not as warm, not as inviting, doesn’t have comfy chairs, and seems too bright somehow.

I like Half Price Books, despite the funky used-book smell, because they do encourage lingering and lounging, but they don’t generally have cafes, and I think they’re the poorer for it. Books and coffee go together. So do books and tea.

So, for now, since our town lacks ANY decent independent bookstores, I shall stick with Barnes and Nobel.
And their green comfy chairs.