- Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation; Advance copy edition (1999)
- ASIN: B001T62YJY
- Package Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
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I wasn't disappointed. Troy Soos drops the reader deep into 1920s America, utilising his baseball playing amateur sleuth Mickey Rawlings as both a fascinating character and a prism through which to view American society of the time. It's often not a pretty picture. While the Roaring 20s might have been a golden age for baseball and some other areas of society, it was also a time of much division. The Ku Klux Klan was on the rise - and not just in the South. Lots of prominent people were involved in the racist organisation, from judges to top baseball players to police chiefs. Hiding behind the falsehood - maybe lying to themselves - that it was about citizenship and being a good American.
Baseball, like other areas of American life, was segregated at the time. Many of the best players were black, but they weren't allowed in the major leagues to compete against the likes of Babe Ruth, a mythic, superhero figure to many Americans now and then. There were burgeoning Negro Leagues, which had some outstanding talent despite being treated like third-class citizens.
Mickey Rawlings is no Babe Ruth, but he is a major leaguer, and gets paid to play baseball. Even if he spends much of his time on the St Louis Browns bench, and mentoring the young star-on-the-rise who plays the same position as him. Mickey loves the game, however, so he grabs the rare chance to play against a talented Negro team as a 'ringer' for a local semi-pro club. He plays under a false name, as major leaguers aren't meant to play against black players, by order of the commissioner.
Mickey's side is well-beaten, but when the superstar Negro pitcher is found lynched at the park after the game, simmering racial tensions threaten to explode. Mickey is drawn deeper into the situation by an acquaintance who is working with a lawyer to get reduce racism via the legal and legislative system. A fool's errand perhaps, given the broad politics and power structures of the time.
HANGING CURVE is a terrific mystery which balances a nostalgic look at baseball with an exploration of a dark period of American history. Soos balances his tale well, blending mystery and history, and having enough of the sport to provide colour and texture to the setting without overwhelming those who aren't fans (though I think baseball-loving readers will enjoy it even more).
Soos gives the reader a great insight into the times, taking us into the political machinations of the Negro Leagues, the Ku Klax Klan, and the broader society. Soos does a tremendous job threading in lots of history without info-dumping. He has a great storyteller's touch. There is a really strong mystery plotline too, which bubbles away throughout and delivers in a really satisfying way.
There are so many things to like about this mystery. It may not be a 5-star high-concept blockbuster, but it's a very, very good tale that would be enjoyable for most crime readers, and particularly recommended for mystery fans who also have an interest in baseball or American history.
Final entry in the Mickey Rawlings historical baseball series. The books' settings are each spaced out by a few years, and this one takes place in 1922 St. Louis as Mickey, still a utility infielder, plays for the St. Louis Browns. Each of his books also deals with social issues of the day, and this one deals with the Negro baseball leagues, Jim Crow laws, the Ku Klux Klan and lynchings, and it was a very painful book to listen to. It was excellent--just made me mad as hell. I am sad, too, that there are no more books in this series.
I've thoroughly enjoyed knowing Mickey and Margie, his friends and (the author's real strength) the historical settings and social issues happening in the different cities Mickey's played in. I've listened to all these in the audio format, read by Johnny Heller, who does an excellent job with the 'tone' of the books and has become Mickey's voice to me. Farewell, Mickey, and thanks for the entertainment! A.