Friday, March 11, 2016

John Billheimer, Field of Schemes

John Billheimer, Field of Schemes
Gale Books (A Cengage Learning Company), 2007
ISBN 98=78-1-4328-2617-8

I've read 2  (so far) of Billheimer's 5 "West Virginia" books featuring Owen Alison, and thought both of them were excellent, in part because the place was perfectly realized, but also because I cared about the characters and the mysteries were actually well-constructed.  (Comments on one of theme here.) 
This book--the first of 2 (so far) featuring sports writer Lloyd Keaton--was something os a disappointment.  Keaton is a sports columnist, whose primary interest is baseball, writing for a (fictional) newspaper in a (fictional) southeastern Ohio city with a AAA team.  He had been a columnist for a Cleveland newspaper, but lost his job because of his gambling problem-a problem that surfaces in this book.  The focus, however, is on steroid use, both by professional athletes and by high schoolers (one of whom is Keaton's son). 

A slugging first baseman on his way to the majors is having a great season in AAA, when he is called up to Cleveland (and does not do well), is fingered for steroid use (and subsequently testifies before a congressional committee).  And gets murdered.
 Keaton follows the story, discovering links to a gym which also manufactures and sells a "performing-enhancing" substance which may or may not be.  Throw in an illegal gambling operation in Wheeling, Keaton's good buddy who is a bookie (perhaps not the best choice of buddies if one has a gambling problem), and the elements seem to be there for a good book. 

But the place is just a generic small city, with nothing that makes it unique or memorable.  And the people are not as fully characterized; indeed, one of them spends much of the book in a coma.  Not a bad book, and I will read the second in the series.  But not special, either.

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