In Randall’s (12th Man for Death, 2012 etc.) latest thriller, a private eye’s attempt to bring a Cuban baseball player’s family to the United States mushrooms into an adventure involving diamond smuggling and gunrunning.
Star Cuban right fielder Toribo “Toro” Rodriquez defected to the United States to play in the major leagues. His family was supposed to come with him, but a last-second snafu left them behind. Years later, Rodriquez, now an established American star, enlists the aid of tough private investigator Sharon O’Mara to get his family out of Cuba and bring them to America. Meanwhile, O’Mara’s close friend, Kevin Bryan, goes to London to help with security for a major diamond shipment. The two cases dovetail when several Cubans, including the man watching Rodriquez’s family and a baseball team manager, steal the diamonds, and turn out to be involved with a gun-smuggling operation. After a double cross, one of the Cubans, a coldblooded killer named Marta de la Vega, comes to America to get revenge on the man who tricked her—and she heads straight into O’Mara and Bryan’s path. The author obviously knows Cuba well, and his descriptions will immerse readers in that country’s culture: “The men in guayaberas were leathery and dark, most younger by half than the Detroit steel they drove.” The story contains some flashback sequences of O’Mara’s time in Iraq, and here again, Randall is on firm ground: “Aleppo boil was…a fleabite–induced bug that could disfigure you for life, and even kill you slowly if not treated.” The story moves swiftly, with no extraneous subplots slowing the narrative drive. However, it doesn’t have a lot of surprises, and it unfortunately focuses as much on Bryan as it does on O’Mara. He’s a weaker and much less intriguing character, and the byplay between him and a British secret service agent, with its comparisons of America and Britain, is clichéd and quickly grows tiresome. As this book is part of the Sharon O’Mara Chronicles, she should have been its star pitcher—not a pinch hitter.
A quick, descriptive baseball-themed thriller that gets a few strikes for reducing its main character to supporting status.