Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Green Monster by Rick Shefchik

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Green Monster by Rick Shefchik. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Green Monster by Rick Shefchik

Green Monster by
A Sam Skarda Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-524-0 (1590585240)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-524-5 (9781590585245)
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $24.95

Review: Private investigator Sam Skarda is hired by the owner of the Boston Red Sox to track down and stop an extortionist in Green Monster, the second mystery in this series by Rick Shefchik.

For Lou Kenwood, the self-made billionaire owner of the Red Sox, life is good. His beloved team has now won two World Series under his leadership and he's revered by people of Boston. But someone wants to take that all away, threatening to go public in 5 days with evidence that the 2004 World Series was fixed. The written note was short and to the point: pay $50 million or be exposed. It was signed "Babe Ruth". Fearing publicity and loath to involve the police, Kenwood uses his connections to hire Sam Skarda, a former police officer working as a private investigator in Minneapolis, who he trusts can investigate the case without bringing any attention to it. Skarda quickly locates some of those involved in the scheme, but realizes time may run out before he can put a name to "Babe Ruth" and prevent a scandal from rocking the sports world.

Fans of baseball novels will undoubtedly be thrilled with Green Monster and overlook the flaws that make this mystery no better than average. The plot itself is rather disjointed and tends to be inconsistent in terms of its credibility. There are long stretches on the history of baseball (especially some of its more disreputable periods) that may appeal to sports enthusiasts, but are likely to be skimmed over by most readers. Skarda's relationship with Kenwood's assistant, Heather Canby, is prurient to say the very least. Sex may add color and interest for some to the story but it accomplishes little in the way of advancing the plot here. The subplot set in Venezuela is also a distraction and is not only unnecessary but seems to exist merely as transitional filler. But probably the most serious flaw here is that Green Monster is set up as a whodunit-style mystery yet the identity of "Babe Ruth" is fairly obvious from early on in the story. Red herrings and alternate suspects are eventually proffered, but too late to generate any real suspense.

A more tightly-constructed plot might have helped Shefchik pull off the "sports noir"-type novel he seems to have attempted. To use a baseball metaphor, he didn't strike out with Green Monster, but did manage to advance the runner. Maybe the third inning of the series will be more successful.

Special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of Green Monster for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Synopsis (from the publisher): After a second World Championship in four years, the Boston Red Sox have finally buried the Curse of the Bambino—or have they? Sox owner Louis Kenwood receives an extortion note signed "Babe Ruth" claiming that the 2004 World Series was fixed—and demanding $50 million to keep the information from getting to the press and the Commissioner’s office.

If the allegation of a fix becomes public, Kenwood fears irreparable damage to the value of his franchise and to his legacy as "Lucky Louie," the man who finally brought a championship to after 86 years. Thus, the Red Sox turn to private detective Sam Skarda to find out who’s behind the extortion plot.

Kenwood insists that his beautiful executive assistant Heather Canby accompany—and monitor—Sam on every step of his investigation. Unsure whom he can trust, Sam follows the clues to the Los Angeles underworld and then to the slums of Venezuela. Can he assemble all of the pieces to this puzzle before more lives are lost and scandal blasts the Red Sox Nation?

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