A throwback Southern California mystery in modern pinstripes, this book leaves no doubt that the author is a fan of both Sam Spade and Bull Durham's Crash Davis.
When a teammate and a 17-year-old girl are found dead in a crashed car, aging relief pitcher Johnny Adcock's secondary skills as a sleuth are put to their most severe test. Johnny is in his final stretch with the San Jose Bay Dogs, a fictional major league squad. The dead teammate, backup catcher Frankie Herrera, had asked for help on a blackmail scheme involving an old porno film his wife appeared in. The girl in the car with Frankie, it turns out, was a prostitute, one of many controlled by an insidious cartel that targets baseball towns. Far from grief-stricken, Frankie's widow is involved in the operation. So, in classic fashion, is just about everyone. Though a rookie, first-time novelist Monday writes with a smooth, easygoing authority, wryly referencing noir and baseball fiction rather than trying to reinvent them. Johnny's internal monologue can't compete with Kevin Costner’s character’s, but there's still fun to be had in watching him be crafty enough to strike out a former battery mate on a breaking ball but cocky enough to give up a game-winning home run on a fastball the next time he faces him. Johnny is in worse pain watching the ball's flight than when he is beat up, tied up and knocked unconscious by the bad guys.
A treat for readers of mystery or baseball novels, this debut will be especially enjoyable for fans of both.