Ed Talbot, engineer and owner of a fledgling alternative automotive testing company, has just been offered an intriguing opportunity. German scientist Dietrich Otto has developed a revolutionary engine-technology that could severely impact the world’s oil dependency. To gauge its effectiveness, Dietrich puts the invention into a 1967 VW Beetle and asks Ed to drive it in a car rally from New York to Paris. Ed agrees, though he’s uneasy about Dietrich’s almost pathological secrecy. Unease turns to full-fledged dread when Ed’s business partner is murdered and the FBI starts getting nosy. Someone has a huge interest in Dietrich’s invention, but who is it? Ed wants to back out, but breach of contract carries a heavy price, so he takes the wheel. He’s paired with expert navigator Marie-Claire Levieux, a gorgeous, mysterious Frenchwoman who carries a potentially devastating secret. Soon, Ed’s feelings for Marie-Claire aren’t in keeping with those of a married man, but once they’re traveling on the great Trans-Siberian highway in Russia, romance is the last thing on his mind. Another murder, a nearly fatal attack and sabotage make the rally a race to survive. More than one country wants Dietrich’s technology either to develop or destroy, and Ed is smack in the middle with only Marie-Claire to trust. The Howles, themselves experienced ralliers, have done a remarkable job recreating the day-to-day challenges of an around-the-world race, and their intriguing, behind-the-scenes details add a rich, delightful layer to the story. In a time of record-high gasoline prices, the plot raises intriguing questions about the world’s love affair with oil, but, thankfully, the message isn’t heavy-handed. It’s Ed and Marie-Claire’s witty banter, quick thinking and dedication to the race—and to each other—that makes the read so enjoyable. Though some plot resolutions are too convenient, it doesn’t detract from the fun-filled ride.
Fast cars, fast women and fast thinking comprise this solid, utterly entertaining thriller.
Copyright 2011 Kirkus Media LLC. Used with permission. Not for republication in any manner.