MURDERERS' ROW: Baseball Mysteries

Dan Barton, Author . New Millennium $22.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-27183-1

The success of the 14 original stories in this anthology boasting an all-star team (Lawrence Block, Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker, etc.) stems from all the contributors' love and respect for baseball. Penzler has found crime writers who understand the game's lore and tactical nuances as well as its deep roots in American life. That said, this collection is more likely to please baseball fans than mystery lovers. Indeed, "mystery" is a misappellation for stories such as K.C. Constantine's family psychodrama, "Strike Zone," or Leonard's "Chickasaw Charlie Hoke," a droll homage to a career minor leaguer. Another, Parker's "Harlem Nocturne," vividly evokes the character of Jackie Robinson as he breaks baseball's "color barrier." A taut, meticulously detailed story, it eschews violence for an uplifting display of racial unity. Not that mayhem doesn't find its way into the lineup. In "Two Bagger," Michael Connelly uses to clever and chilling effect the frenzy that slugger Mark McGwire creates each time he steps to the plate. Max Allan Collins's richly atmospheric "Pinch Hitter" not only delights with its portrayals of larger-than-life owner Bill Veeck and his midget-ballplayer Eddie Gaedel but also satisfies as a whodunit. One of the book's particular pleasures is the artistry with which many of the stories blend fact and fiction. Baseball buffs will run to their baseball encyclopedias to check whether famous episodes on the field actually happened as portrayed here. In all, this is a book with as much charm as harm. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
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