A Cat McDaniel Mystery by Jen Estes
Review: Rookie sports journalist Catriona "Cat" McDaniel gets the chance to step up to the big leagues with a job as senior reporter for the Las Vegas Chips, baseball's hottest team, in the aptly titled Big Leagues, the first mystery in this series by Jen Estes.
The team's former senior reporter, Brad Derhoff, is dead of a presumably accidental overdose. Or maybe not so accidental. Cat gets the job over the team's current junior reporter, Dustin Carlyle, who clearly resents her and begins immediately to plot the demise of her career. "Careful, Rookie, in this ballpark, you'd do wisely to speak softly and carry a big bat," he tells her.
One of her Cat's first assignments is to write a press release on the sudden death of the team's "beloved outfielder, Jamal Abercromby, [who] went into cardiac arrest on his way home." But Cat is suspicious that the death occurs just before an important trade deadline and her investigative instincts tell her to take a closer look.
The cover says it all: Jimmy Choos or Manolos (or something similar) stepping on a baseball and bat. Chick-lit and sports might seem like a mismatched duo in a mystery, but it works reasonably well in Big Leagues. The "chick-lit" element comes in part from the designer names that are bandied about between Cat and her best friend Tamela but also from how some men are described in the book. Consider Cat's first take on her new boss:
His eyes weren't just gray. They were smoky and smoldered with a provocative intensity. His chestnut hair was thick as steel wool, and yet each strand looked silky to the touch. If it were any thinner, his chiseled face might be considered gaunt. Instead, his alabaster skin stretched over a pair of marbled cheekbones and down to a prominent jaw.
The "sports" element comes into play mostly from a behind the scenes look at the operation of a baseball team. (It leans more towards fantasy baseball than major league baseball, but that's part of the fun.) To be fair, neither of these elements dominate the story, which is very much character-centric.
The breezy narrative moves along at a brisk pace, the dialog surprisingly crisp. It's often easy to lose the focus on the whodunit storyline in these types of mysteries, what with shopping for men and shoes — not necessarily in that order — being a constant distraction, but that isn't quite the case here. Cat comes across as more level-headed than not with a good reporter's eye — and maybe a bit of shopper's eye — for seeing what's real and what isn't. The outcome isn't much of a surprise, but the path taken to get there is well structured.
Big Leagues is a good start to this series that keeps Cat's career options open at the end. "[Are you done] with sports writing?" she's asked. "No. Just done with baseball. Maybe I'll try my hand at covering mini-golf. Or dodgeball. Perhaps the fast-paced world of professional thumb wrestling is my true calling."
Acknowledgment: Camel Press provided a copy of Big Leagues for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Big Leagues: Las Vegas, Nevada
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Big Leagues by Jen Estes — A Cat McDaniel Mystery
Publisher: Camel Press
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: December 2011
List Price: $14.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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