NASCAR champion Sam Hooker's race day spotter is his girlfriend, Alexandra "Barney" Barnaby. A spotter is usually a guy who stands on top of the grandstand with binoculars and a wireless connection to a driver's headgear to keep him out of trouble on the track. In this case, Barney is a girl and she was Hooker's girlfriend until things went south in the romance department after Hooker strayed off course with a waitress. Without his spotter around to keep him in the relationship center lane, he's paying the penalty. Barney still keeps him on track while the race is on, though it's nothing but a cold shoulder when the engines cool.
Barney and Hooker have bigger problems to solve in the second installment of Janet Evanovich's new series (following METRO GIRL). During a major race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, a racer spins out of control and crashes. Another is so far in the lead that Barney figures something is fishy, and she mentions this to a fellow spotter, Goggle. After the race is over, Goggle goes missing. Barney gets a frantic cell phone call from him from inside the 18-wheeler race car transport carrying the winning cars. He whispers that he stumbled onto a dangerous secret worth a billion dollars and hid inside the transport when someone nearly caught him snooping. Now the transport is headed for Mexico with him crunched between two race cars and no way to escape.
Barney and Hooker tail the transport, hijack it at a truck stop and break in to free Goggle. They find more than they bargained for when a shrink-wrapped body rolls out of a closet. A mad chase ensues that involves body snatching, kidnapping, dognapping, grand theft auto, breaking and entering, multiple murders and a few other potentially life-term felonies. And the evidence keeps pointing straight at our heroes.
At stake is a high-tech miniaturized communications chip developed by race car magnates Ray and Oscar Huevo. The device gives an illegal edge to any driver who uses it, but Barney and Hooker soon discover that NASCAR isn't the only industry that can benefit from the Huevo Corporation invention. When multinational arms dealers turn up looking to deal, the game gets serious and they find themselves in way over their heads.
Evanovich has created all-new characters in new places for her vast numbers of Stephanie Plum fans. In Miami Beach it's wash-and-wear beach hair, bare midriffs and flip flops instead Jersey big hair, spandex and sneakers. Rock star race car drivers and cigar-rolling Cuban ladies with AK47s complicate our heroine's life instead of sexy cops and pistol-packing grannies, and the bad guys sail yachts and drive Beemers. Bail bond skipping is way below their radar. Of course there's a dog --- what would an Evanovich novel be without a big, doofy, slurpy dog?
Evanovich is a masterful storyteller and should score big with MOTOR MOUTH. She harkens back to the romance genre, which should please fans from her old days, and the colorful and action-packed descriptions of NASCAR racing should make the fans in the stands send her a big wave of appreciation at the bookstores.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 11, 2011