His drinking and reckless lifestyle overwhelmed his considerable athletic talent. I had an image in reading the book of Eli as Kevin Costner in the classic baseball movie Bull Durham.
After getting himself together the once promising infielder is now running his own one man detective agency out of a studio apartment. Most of his investigations are for professional baseball teams checking out the lives of potential players and other staff.
Eli is not a predictable personality. On the walls of his office are posters and photos of Richard Nixon. As a boy he had started reading about Nixon and putting up posters of the 37th President. Partly he did it to upset his father and because “he found Nixon to be a fascinating study in contradictions”. In his Nixon collection I was reminded of another quirky quick tongued sleuth, Elvis Cole, in the series by Robert Crais who loves Disney characters.
There is lots of back story for future books to fill in on Eli. He has been engaged 7 times but never married.
Into his life walks tall, blonde and beautiful Los Angeles lawyer and sports agent, Veronica Craven. She is dressed to impress:
She wore a crisp white button-down with the sleeves rolled to the
elbows, a gray pencil skirt, and Ruby red high heels.
She hires Eli to find her most prominent client, Almario (Go Go) Gato, an 18 year old Cuban refugee. A year earlier the Colorado Rockies had given him a $1.2 million signing bonus.
Almario, who hates the nickname Go Go, has disappeared from the Asheville Travellers minor league team and she wants him found before the Rockies start asking too many questions about the status of the prize prospect. Injured the year before his performance has been sub-standard for some time even though he has recovered from the injury.
Almario has been living with his fraternal sister, Maria, in a penthouse apartment. She is deeply worried about what has happened to her brother.
It is soon evident that the Almario was not ready for everything that comes the way of a handsome young professional athlete.
As he searches for Almario around Asheville, Eli is brought back to his experiences as a rising young professional ballplayer 15 years earlier. He equally did not handle well the temptations offered pro athletes.
Eli equally understands the enormous pressure to perform put on young pros on whom millions have been lavished. For most great athletes, as with Eli and Almario, the transition from amateur to professional is demanding. Expectations are high. When a young player struggles, as inevitable, it can become a burden to play the game.
In The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, which I reviewed this summer, the young brilliant shortstop becomes incapable of making routine throws as he overthinks the game.
As Eli penetrates Almario’s life murder occurs and Eli searches for the killer.
Everhart was convincing in his depiction of Asheville. I had a good feel for the city from the book
It is an excellent debut. Eli is a memorable character. I thought his personal demons were a touch over emphasized. At the same time I enjoyed the realistic description of pro baseball and the challenges of youthful highly paid athletes. I look forward to reading more Eli Sharpe mysteries.
****The author holds a Master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Alabama and is teaching at Northeastern Technical College and Coker College.