A prison story that plays more softball than hardball.



A small-time criminal becomes the star of the prison baseball team in this historical novel inspired by true stories about Sing Sing in the 1930s.

Eddie Marek is newly married and unable to find a job at the start of the Great Depression. Desperate to keep his Filipina wife, Carrie, from becoming a taxi dancer, Eddie starts holding up grocery stores with his partner, “Foxy” Renard. When they’re caught, Renard squeals on Eddie, “implicating him in everything but the teaching of evolution in Tennessee.” Eddie is sent to New York’s notorious Sing Sing prison, where he befriends three other prisoners on his cellblock: Nick Strecker, a tough guy who always has an escape scheme or two going; Salvatore Rossi, the muscle who follows him; and “Sandy” Myers, a swindler who tries to keep his young pal Eddie out of trouble. Eddie also becomes close to Sing Sing’s warden, a reformer named Stewart Beck, his saintly wife, Kathryn, and the prison chaplain, Father Gelasius Bryant. While serving his time, Eddie discovers a talent for playing baseball and, with Beck’s help, is scouted by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Pietrusza (Rothstein: The Life, Death, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series, 2011, etc.) has created an almost idyllic picture of prison life related in a conversational, noir-ish style. The story is peppered with picturesque details about day-to-day life in Sing Sing, from emptying the toilet buckets to attending church services. Although the title refers to the cells where the condemned spent their last few hours, Sing Sing’s infamous electric chair never really threatens Eddie or his chums. A baseball story at heart, the episodic plot meanders from the prisoners’ attempts to establish a prison garden to a foiled escape attempt and, finally, Eddie’s attempts to play professional baseball. This easy-reading prison tale avoids the violence or gritty realism that has come to be associated with the genre.

A prison story that plays more softball than hardball.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1440494055

Page Count: 300

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2015

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...


Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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