Au­thor hits home run with pitch­ing de­tec­tive

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - By John Sul­li­van

JOHNNY Ad­cock is an ag­ing Ma­jor League re­lief pitcher who makes $1.5 mil­lion a year to throw a ball 10 min­utes a night, pitch­ing to one bat­ter (a leftie) maybe ev­ery other game. So, Ad­cock has lots of time on his hands, and uses it to moon­light as a pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor for other base­ball folks. When the team’s young backup catcher and a young hooker die in a car crash right af­ter he asks Ad­cock to find and de­stroy an old porn video star­ring his wife, the part-time de­tec­tive stum­bles on a sleazy nest of pros­ti­tu­tion, porn, drugs and, even­tu­ally, mur­der. That’s the premise of San Jose au­thor T.T. Mon­day’s smart and breezy thriller de­but, The Setup Man, (Dou­ble­day, 272 pages, $29), fus­ing lots of ir­rev­er­ent base­ball lore with pithy hu­mour and a solid sto­ry­line. You don’t have to be a fan of the bigs to get a big kick out of this one. The Lady of Sor­rows, by Anne Zouroudi (Lit­tle, Brown, 288 pages, $28): A fa­mous church icon re­placed by a forgery, an in­fant’s bones in a hid­den shoe­box, an ail­ing icon-pain­ter’s sud­den death — all grist for the fourth in this Bri­tish au­thor’s Seven Deadly Sins se­ries, set on re­mote, fic­tional Aegean is­lands and star­ring one of the odd­est de­tec­tives of the Euro-school: Her­mes Di­ak­toros, a.k.a. The Fat Man. With its enig­matic char­ac­ters, Gor­dian Knot sto­ry­line, evo­ca­tion of an­cient and mod­ern themes, Zouroudi has crafted a sup­ple ren­der­ing of a con­tem­po­rary Greek tragedy. When for­mer New York book edi­tor Chris Pavone won last year’s best-first­novel Edgar Award for his te­diously con­vo­luted and highly du­bi­ous spy novel The Ex­pats, some deemed it an odd mis­step by the Mys­tery Writ­ers of Amer­ica. The clincher to that ar­gu­ment ar­rives in the form of Pavone’s much­bal­ly­hooed (and aptly named) sopho­more ef­fort, The Ac­ci­dent (Crown, 400 pages, $30), which avoids some of the most egre­gious flaws of its pre­de­ces­sor while mag­ni­fy­ing oth­ers. The premise here is that a ne­far­i­ous me­dia mogul and his CIA al­lies would kill to sup­press a book man­u­script, writ­ten by his for­mer part­ner who fakes his own death, that not only blows the lid off their dirty deal­ings but re­veals his cul­pa­bil­ity in the ve­hic­u­lar mur­der of a col­lege girl years ear­lier. But the mogul’s sins re­main far too vague to jus­tify the ex­treme mea­sures that leave bod­ies drop­ping and the book’s au­thor, agent and edi­tor on the run. It all de­volves into one long chase se­quence with a seat-of-the-pants plot­line that cheer­fully sac­ri­fices any se­ri­ous char­ac­ter in­sight. In his de­ter­mi­na­tion to pro­duce a page-turner, Pavone has gone per­ilously off the road with The Ac­ci­dent. Corpse Flower, by Glo­ria Fer­ris (Dun­durn, 408 pages, $18): Dead-broke di­vor­cée Bliss Moon­beam Corn­wall — a boonie On­tario mashup of Kin­sey Mill­hone, star of Sue Grafton’s in­ter­minable al­pha­bet mys­ter­ies, and Janet Evanovich’s slap­stick bail bondswoman, Stephanie Plum — agrees to help pol­li­nate a pair of rare monster plants for her ago­ra­pho­bic cousin and his ma­li­cious ex-wife. Er­satz hi­lar­ity and mur­der en­sue. The Way of All Fish, by Martha Grimes (Scrib­ner, 352 pages, $30): Promis­ing a “wickedly funny” satire on New York’s cut­throat pub­lish­ing world, this much-de­layed se­quel to 2003’s Foul Mat­ter finds morally ham­pered hit­men Candy and Karl join­ing forces with a brash pub­lisher and best­selling au­thor to side­line a nasty lit­er­ary agent. But Grimes, best known for her Richard Jury/Scot­land Yard mys­ter­ies, sim­ply gets caught up in her own cute­ness, cook­ing up a mot­ley con­coc­tion larded with in-joke silli­ness. As­so­ciate Edi­tor John Sul­li­van runs the Free Press Au­tos, Homes and Travel

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