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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
Pickoff by G.P. Hutchinson is a thriller set in 1927 that combines major league baseball and Chicago mob action, mostly the latter. Joe Rath, a young, well-rounded catcher, is replaced by a younger, poorer defensive, and heavy-drinking backstop, BUT a home run star. Joe’s career was on the rise until the drunken slugger showed up. Now Joe wants to be traded. Adding to his troubles, his wife wants him to get out of baseball and stay at home with her and their one-year-old son. Adding further to his difficulties, due to innocent circumstances, Joe becomes enamored with a cabaret songstress Amie, who entrances him with her version of “Someone to Watch over Me.” Unfortunately, she’s the “possession” of a notorious mob boss who tolerates no hint of an intrusion. Thus, the flames of the plot are ignited.
I enjoyed Pickoff by G.P. Hutchinson both for Joe Rath’s conflict between his love and duty toward his family and for his natural on-the-road attraction to the beautiful and entrapped Amie. He is lured by his chivalric need to protect and rescue her from her tortured existence. And I enjoyed the meticulously researched baseball framework. Though the Baltimore Beacons are a made-up National League team, everything else about the sport is spot on—I checked: Bob O’Farrell, the 1927 Cardinals’ manager; Earl Webb, the Cubs’ right fielder; Kiki Cuyler, the Pirates’ skipper; and even Matty Schwabb, the Reds’ groundskeeper. Also real are Chicago’s streets and Prohibition’s speakeasy culture. The questions, then, are two: will Joe be able to get off the bench and play regularly, and more important, will he resolve his love for his wife with his attraction to the sexy, goodhearted songstress? Pickoff by G.P. Hutchinson offers great action, great baseball, a great love story, a great moral dilemma, and crisp direct prose. Hutchinson has hit this one out-of-the-park!