The Diamond Deception
By Mike Gallagher
326 Pages, AuthorHouse
By DOUG SMITH
Baseball has a whole new drug problem in rookie novelist Mike Gallagher’s “Diamond Deception.” It appears as if a couple of unscrupulous club owners (is that redundant?) employ their deviously-acquired Arizona Sidewinders (one of several nifty turns of nomenclature) as a means of distributing their addictive poisons to the likes of Philadelphia, St. Louis and New York, blackmailing troubled players as couriers.
It sounds a little preposterous, but no moreso than, for example, the 1934 movie “Murder on the Diamond,” in which Robert Young served an early internship for his later fame as “Marcus Welby.”
Besides his capricious sense of names (the unfairly incarcerated Damion Wilksbere, hotty agent Kristina Leerson and the hero himself, workhorse Pete Dobbins), the fledgling author has a keen sense of plot and it’s hard to find a hole in it. In fact, to “Deception’s” detriment, it seems sometimes as if he’s working it out as he goes, writing notes, rather than prose. Occasionally, the reader of “Diamond Deception” will feel like the man (or woman) who knew too much.
Dobbins was a great mound prospect, his career cut short by a line drive to the head. Plenty of real-life precedent for that: old-time Bison Billy Long, for one, or the Indians’ Herb Score for another. He’s an amazingly quick-witted man who shifts to a career shuffling papers at the FBI until a case comes up in which the solution might involve his reviving his old skills.
Gallagher writes some vivid scenes. The author’s worst villains fall from grace quite literally. Gravity hasn’t been used to such symbolic effect since the last scene of “Maltese Falcon.”
There’s a niftily-wrought gambit about two young women in a playful bedroom-prey competition in which the loser takes nothing, and another in which the Goody Twospikes Dobbins talks Agent Leerson out of her raiment in the name of justice. Dobbins’ verbal jousts with his acutely pregnant wife are the stuff of successful marriage counseling. She’s a beaut. Gallagher claims to have patterned her after his own spouse. Lucky man.
But “Deception’s” devil is in the details. Grammatically, it’s hardly smarter than a fifth grader — elementary stuff the likes of uses of “your” and “you’re,” missing and/or excessive quotation marks and one particularly comical bobble about “an idol threat,” downright un-American.
Gallagher concludes by hinting at further adventures for Agent Dobbins, who now has a child to raise and an innocent man to free. Let’s hope next time he makes sure his socks are straight. Can’t say I couldn’t put this down, but I never had trouble picking it back up.
Doug Smith covers baseball, theater and Grand Island for these newspapers.