Stonewall Jackson's Elbow
Field of Schemes
and the Blame Game
John Billheimer, Field of Schemes, Five Star, $25.95.
When a baseball trainer is asked by his players for steroids, he mixes up an innocent placebo of cold-cream, sunscreen, and lemon juice. But when the team's top hitter tests positive for steroids, and later dies of an overdose, the trainer faces humiliation, shame and criminal charges. The novel's hero is Lloyd Keaton, a third-generation sportswriter (his grandfather broke the Black Sox Scandal in 1919) with a gambling problem. When Keaton tries to clear the trainer's name, he finds himself opposed on one side by mobsters, and on the other by a U.S. Senator with a McCarthyesque zeal to root out steroid abuse, no matter whom he hurts along the way. Personal subplots are often annexed to stories like a third arm. But in Field of Schemes, the multiple subplots involving race, family, and addiction are seamlessly interwoven throughout the book, running parallel to, while enhancing, the central plot. With strong dialogue, rich characters, and passionate storytelling, Billheimer hits this thoroughly engaging story out of the ballpark.
--Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine