And it's One-Two-Three Strikes You're Out...
Baseball P.I. Mysteries

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What could be more American than baseball? Or the private eye himself? That's gotta be right up there with Mom and apple pie.

Here are a few cases where private eyes step up to the plate...

  • Mortal Stakes (1975) by Robert B. Parker..Buy this book..Buy the audiobook..Kindle it!
    In the third Spenser novel, Parker's Boston gumshoe and hardcore baseball fan is hired by the Red Sox to find out whether Marty Rabb, their hotshot pitcher, is deliberately tanking. The Spenser series was picking up real steam by this point, and Parker bears down hard on themes he would explore throughout the series: questions of personal honour, manliness and fair play (in sports and in life) abound, as well as, yes, the nature of love, and what it all means. But this was no drawing room philosophizing going on here -- as Parker pointed out in the epigraph drawn from Robert Frost's Two Tramps in Mud Time (and even more so in the final showdown), this was a game being played for "mortal stakes."

  • The Screwball King Murder (1978) by Kin Platt
    . Buy this book. Kindle it!Featuring Max Roper, special investigator for EPT, a nationwide private investigation/security firm, who's dispatched to look into the suspicious death-by-electrocution murder of nutjob superstar pitcher Hondo Kenyon of the L.A. Dodgers. The usual mayhem ensues.

  • Squeeze Play (1982) by Paul Benjamin..Buy this book
    Former baseball hero George Chapman decides to go into politics, but when somebody tries to kill him, he hires hard-boiled New York gumshoe Max Klein to investigate. This one's not just a ripping good yarn, but marks the debut of a major literary writer, Paul Auster, who wrote this under a pen name and went on to write the acclaimed New York Trilogy.

  • Strike Three, You're Dead (1984) by Richard D. Rosen...Buy this book ..Kindle it!
  • Fadeaway (1986) by Richard D. Rosen ..Buy this book ..Kindle it!
  • Saturday Night Dead (1988) by Richard D. Rosen ..Buy this book ..Kindle it!
  • World Of Hurt (1994) by Richard D. Rosen..Buy this book ..Kindle it!
  • Dead Ball (2001) by Richard D. Rosen ..Buy this book ..Kindle it!
    In the Edgar-winning Strike Three, You're Dead, bookish outfielder Harvey "The Professor" Blisserg is traded down to the Providence Jewels, an expansion team, after "five good years" with the Boston Red Sox. But things really go bad when his roommate on the team is murdered. Harvey cracks the case, of course, but he's had it with playing baseball, and quits, to become a private eye (and later, a motivational speaker) in this baseball-themed series.

  • Murder in Wrigley Field (1991) by Crabbe Evers..Buy this book
  • Murderer's Row (1991) by Crabbe Evers..Buy this book
  • Bleeding Dodger Blue (1991) by Crabbe Evers..Buy this book
  • Fear in Fenway (1993) by Crabbe Evers..Buy this book
  • Tigers Burning (1994) by Crabbe Evers..Buy this book
    Not really a private eye, maybe, but when retired Chicago sportswriter and beseball nut Duffy House is dispatched by the commissioner Granville Chambliss to look into something that doesn't smell right in the world of big league baseball, he's off like a shot, his sexy law student niece "Petey" Biggers in tow, in this fun series written by Crabbe Evers (actually Reinder Van Til and William "The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings" Brashler).

  • The Plot to Kill Jackie Robinson (1992) by Donald Honig. Buy this book
  • Last Man Out (1993) by Donald Honig Buy this book
    Noted baseball writer and historian Donald Honig penned a couple of well-received baseball themed mysteries set in the 1940s and starring burned-out sports-writer Joe Tinker for The New York Daily News, the far more notable being the first which concerns his discovery of a conspiracy to assassinate Jackie Robinson, who is poised to break baseball's color barrier.

  • Only The Wicked (2000) by Gary Phillips...Buy this book...Kindle it!
    The fourth and (so far) final in Phillips' series about Los Angeles private eye Ivan Monk finds him traveling to the Deep South to look into the murder of his cousin Kennesaw Riles, a former baseball player. There's some great local colour and some fascinating stuff about the old Negro baseball leagues.

  • Double Play (2004) by Robert B. Parker.. Buy this book
    Jackie Robinson again. Former boxer and wounded World War II vet Joseph Burke is hired by the Brooklyn Dodgers to protect Robinson, who's just been brought up from the Montreal Royals farm team to break major league baseball's colour barrier. Parker offers a deftly drawn but sensitive portrait of a bygone era, and gives us an intriguing, compelling character in Burke, a survivor of both Guadacanal and a post-war busted marriage who just doesn't give much of a damn about anything anymore, but is slowly learning that maybe, just maybe, there are still things worth fighting for. Like his growing admiration for Robinson quiet dignity and their budding friendship.

  • Curveball (2012) by G.W. Kennedy. Buy this book. Kindle it!
    The baseball connection's a little tenuous in this one, but given that this is the first in a proposed series, I'm going to include this promising debut which introduces former Chicago Cubs pitcher Ben Barklee who loses his present job as an English professor and sets himself up as a reluctant private eye -- Ooops! I mean "confidential consultant."

And batting clean-up...

  • Murderer's Row (2001) Edited by Otto Penzler...Buy this book
    Here are a few stories for the seventh inning stretch, each a satisfying blend of crime and baseball, and more than a few of 'em are by writers near and dear to readers of this site. Contributors include Lawrence Block (with a Keller story), Max Allan Collins (Nate Heller), Michael Connelly, K.C. Constantine, Elmore Leonard, John Lescroart, Laura Lippman (Tess Monaghan), Mike Lupica, Robert B Parker (a rare short story, about a bodyguard assigned to protect Jackie Robinson that he would later expand into Double Play), Thomas Perry, Henry Slesar and others, with an an intro by former pitcher and Ball Four author Jim Bouton.

Preliminary list compiled by Kevin Burton Smith.


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