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.