Newspaperman Frank Lofton, suffering from youngish mid-life crisis (a second divorce, a possibility of serious illness), is taking it easy, career-wise, fleeing from the big-city scene to do sports features in Holyoke, Mass. But, Covering the local minor-league baseball team, Lofton stumbles onto a hot, tangled story: possible links between the team-owner and a recent spate of fires in Holyoke; a scheme by an ambitious local politician to force the team-owner (a local power-broker) into supporting him. And when Lofton discovers the body of shortstop Randy Gutierrez, the questions get more convoluted, if no more interesting. Was Gutierrez involved in the team-owner's apparent arson scheme? Can Lofton's primary informer--red-haired femme fatale Gina Amanti, the team-owner's mistress--be trusted? Is she loyal to the team-owner, Lofton, or yet a third lover? The newsman's dogged sleuthing for hard evidence gets him into big trouble, of course: he's framed, chased, and shot at--but does ultimately get the true story into print. First-novelist Stansberry writes solidly in a lean, impassive, serious fashion; a few of the character-portraits here--and the most of sturdy baseball sequences--are quietly absorbing. But the drab plot, almost entirely revealed in the opening chapters, is ploddingly rehashed thereafter. (The one finale-revelation is ho-hum at best.) Lofton's angst--especially the contrived medical worry--is a colorless hand-me-down. And the overall impression is earnest, thoughtful yet humorless, stubbornly inanimate, and thickly derivative.