Book Review: Murder in the City of Liberty by Rachel McMillan

Murder in the City of Liberty
A Van Buren and DeLuca Mystery #2
Rachel McMillan
Thomas Nelson, May 2019
ISBN 978-0-7852-1696-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Hamish DeLuca and Regina “Reggie” Van Buren have a new case—and this one could demand a price they’re not willing to pay.

Determined to make a life for herself, Reggie Van Buren bid goodbye to fine china and the man her parents expected her to marry and escaped to Boston. What she never expected to discover was that an unknown talent for sleuthing would develop into a business partnership with the handsome, yet shy, Hamish DeLuca.

Their latest case arrives when Errol Parker, the leading base stealer in the Boston farm leagues, hires Hamish and Reggie to investigate what the Boston police shove off as a series of harmless pranks. Errol believes these are hate crimes linked to the outbreak of war in Europe, and he’s afraid for his life. Hamish and Reggie quickly find themselves in the midst of an escalating series of crimes.

When Hamish has his careful constructed life disrupted by a figure from his past, he is driven to a decision that may sever him from Reggie forever . . . even more than her engagement to wealthy architect Vaughan Vanderlaan.

Ahh, Reggie and Hamish are a charming couple although, strictly speaking, they aren’t really a couple because they’re studiously resisting any kind of romantic attraction. They do, however, have a strong partnership in their detective agency and, even in these early days, they’re getting noticed.

Their latest case involves a black man, a baseball player who wants to break the color barrier in the big leagues. Errol Parker retains Hamish and Reggie to look into what the police call pranks being played against him but they soon realize these are acts of racism and there is nothing prankish about these attacks. This is 1940 and Boston is a hotbed of racism, particularly against blacks and ethnic minorities, so they have a formidable task identifying the perpetrator(s) and stopping them.

Meanwhile, Hamish is dealing with a kind of anxiety disorder and a tricky relationship with the criminal world and Reggie is fighting to maintain a distance from her high society background. This story is, realistically. more of a character study of Reggie, Hamish and a variety of peripheral players than a mystery but, for all that, Murder in the City of Liberty is an entertaining tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2019.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes  & Noble // Kobo // Amazon
Books-A-Million // Indiebound

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About the Author

Rachel McMillan is the author of the Herringford and Watts mysteries, the Three Quarter Time series of contemporary romances set in opulent Vienna, and the Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries praised for bringing an authentic 1930’s Boston world to life while normalizing the fictional conversation surrounding mental illness. Her first work of non-fiction, described as a romantic’s guide to independent travel, releases in 2020. Rachel lives in Toronto, Canada.

Connect with Rachel
Website // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

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Book Review: I’m Keith Hernandez by Keith Hernandez

I’m Keith Hernandez
A Memoir
Keith Hernandez
Little Brown and Company, May 2018
ISBN: 978-1-3350-1692-8
Hardcover

Full disclosure:  A Die-hard Mets fan, I have had full-season tickets for 32 years, and attend an average of 75 games each season.  I have also been an avid fan of Keith Hernandez, formerly the Mets first baseman and currently a member of the broadcast team that announces each Mets game, and the author of this wonderful memoir.  So I cannot lay claim to impartiality.  That said, this book is every bit as terrific as were/are the talents of its author.  When a book begins with the words “I Love Baseball,” what else can it be to its readers, most if not all of whom feel the same emotion?

To say that the book is replete with statistics and historical recreations of wonderful moments in the sport would be an understatement.  But that is all to the good!  To quote the author: “I want to talk about my development as a baseball player and how it got me to the major leagues; I want to talk about how I gained the confidence to thrive in the bigs despite a grueling haul; and, finally, I want to talk about how my development as a young player affects how I see the game today from my seat in the broadcast booth.”  And he does all of that, and more!  As he also says: “I want to get to the core of my baseball story.”  And he does just that, and more.

The tale begins in 1972, when Keith Hernandez “was getting ready to go to my first spring training.”  I should state here that the biggest influences on this young man – 18 years old at this point in time, were, and always continued to be, his father (a former professional baseball player), and his brother Gary (the starting first baseman for the University of California Golden Bears baseball team), to both of whom he pays tribute throughout the book, deservedly.  His Dad is a first-generation American, his parents having emigrated from Spain via the Pacific, arriving in San Francisco in 1916.   His father “broke all kinds of school records, leading his team to a championship game at Seals Stadium, Mission High School, was named MVP, and was christened by the city as the next big star to come out of the Bay Area.’ Keith had been signed by the St. Louis Cardinals minor league team, whose spring training complex was in St. Petersburg, picked in the 42nd round of the June 1971 amateur draft, one of the 500 players taking part in the spring training games, with a mind-set of “baseball superstar or bust.”  At age 18 he played in the Florida State League in 1972  “Some execs, scouts, and coaches claimed that young Keith Hernandez was the best defensive first baseman – at any level – they’d come across in quite some time.”  He talks about Pacifica, in 1961, when he was 7 and Gary 9, both trying out for Little League.  We then jump to the time after the 1972 season in St. Pete, when he was “itching to get back home to San Francisco.” But unexpectedly he joined the Tulsa Oilers, the Cardinals’ AAA team, at his father’s insistence.

The author’s prominence in his chosen field of endeavor is indisputable.  He earned more Gold Glove Awards (11) than any first baseman in baseball history.  Since 2000, he has served as an analyst on Mets telecasts for the SNY, WPIX and MSG networks, and is a member of the Fox Sports MLB postseason studio team.  Personally he and Gary Cohen are the absolute best in the business, and if I ever have to miss a game, at least I make sure I always have his play-by-play in close proximity.  His book is reflective of all of that brilliance, and it is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, August 2018.

Book Review: The Gone Dead Train by Lisa Turner

The Gone Dead Train
Detective Billy Able Series #2

Lisa Turner
William Morrow, July 2014
ISBN 978-0-06-213619-0
Trade Paperback

Memphis detective Billy Able investigates the death of two legendary bluesmen—sax player Little Man Lacy and Red Davis. Little Man falls into a construction dig and Red Davis dies waiting for a train—he is found dead on a bench outside the station.  An incompetent detective, a year away from retirement, caught the case and he’s not interested in a couple of old men who were staying at the local homeless shelter. A voodoo bag was found on Davis and female patrol officer Frankie Malone, who grew up in Key West and is familiar with the Santeria religion, sees a connection between the religion and the deaths.

Able, who is returning to active duty after an extended leave, is contacted by a friend, former St. Louis Cardinal’s catcher Augie Poston. Poston, whose career was cut short by mental illness, contacts Able about investigating the death of his mother.  Augie’s mother Dahlia Poston was a civil rights worker who died not long after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Supposedly she was killed trapped in a burning car, but Augie wants to know more about her death. He found scrapbooks of his mother and he hired an investigative journalist to look into her death.

Much of the action takes place around the blues clubs and bars of Beale Street. Readers of Kris Nelscott, Walter Mosley, and Robert Crais may want to check out Detective Billy Able’s latest adventure.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, May 2017.

Book Review: House of Nails by Lenny Dykstra

house-of-nailsHouse of Nails
Lenny Dykstra
William Morrow, July 2016
ISBN 978-0-0624-0736-8
Hardcover

In a very interesting autobiography, subtitled both “The Construction, The Demolition, The Resurrection” and “A Memoir of Life on the Edge,” this wonderful professional baseball player lays it all out on the line:  His almost obsessive determination to play professional ball from his youngest days, through his accomplishing that and much more, setting all kinds of offensive records in the greatest game in sports (OK, I am not the most objective person in that regard), through his losing almost everything when incarcerated, and then recovering his life when released and finding great success in the business world.

In what the author describes as “the greatest World Series in baseball history,” in “the best sports city in the world, New York,” at age 23, he played in an historic manner, helping the New York Mets win it all.  (On a personal note, that end to the 1986 baseball season is what made this reviewer become a full-season Mets ticketholder, and I have attended nearly every ensuing game for the past 30 years.)  I clearly remember Lenny Dykstra as an incredible player, giving it everything he had, and throwing himself up against the center field wall when a ball came his way, with no thought to the cost to his body.  He is gracious in recounting the end of that game and noting that Bill Buckner’s error which cost his team the game, and the Series, was only one of the factors leading to that outcome.

Lenny Dykstra’s career highlights included a walkoff homerun in the NLCS in 1986, and a World Series homerun in both 1986 and 1993.  The author had great talent as a ballplayer, and, in what I’m guessing is almost a necessity when achieving what he did, also seems to this reader to have an enormous ego.  He says what is undeniably true:  “. . . ask anyone to dispute the fact that not too many players have played at the level that I rose to, or accomplished the things I did in the postseason over my career.”  But as this book nears its end, he admits “I know I have many flaws and have made many mistakes over the years.  I know, too, that I will make more mistakes as I continue to work on regaining a life built with happiness and contentment; a life that I can be proud of.”  Dykstra was not happy during the years he played for the Mets, chafing over being platooned at center field with the great Mookie Wilson [one of my favorite all-time Mets players].  Not long after, he left to join the Philadelphia Phillies.  Of that time, he says “other than a little drinking here and there, I didn’t even know what drugs looked like then.  Steroids were not on the radar yet.  I know it’s hard to believe, but I would then make up for my innocence when I played for the Phillies.”  He describes himself in 1993 at age 30 as being “put together like a Greek statue.”

Dykstra has strong opinions about most of those alongside whom he worked and played ball, e.g., he calls Davey Johnson, the Mets manager in the ‘80’s, an “overrated and underachieving manager,” although he credits many of his colleagues with being great ballplayers.  He does not make excuses for his own forays into heavy drinking and use of steroids, cocaine and amphetamines, and credits that use with his becoming an All-Star in 1990.  He at one point owned his own private jet, which he used to fly, among other places, to Paris, where he purchased a bottle of a 1936 wine for $3,000, and Germany, where he paid $75,000 cash for a “genuine German shepherd.”  He proudly writes of his “good friends” Donald Trump and Charlie Sheen, among others. He made enormous amounts of money, both in baseball and in his off-the-field business [known at one point as the Car Wash King] and real-estate investments.  Some of those moves, however, landed him in prison in 2011, ending his life as he then knew it.

This is a fascinating book [albeit, be warned, laced with profanity], for one who is a dedicated baseball fan, and a very fast read, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, September 2016.