• New mystery is a homer for Sox fans
     | July 13,2008
    Courtesy of Jere Smith

    Mary-Ann Tirone Smith and her son, Jere Smith, have teamed up to produce a clever whodunit that draws on his experience as a blogger about the Red Sox. The book is due out next month.

    "Dirty Water: A Red Sox Mystery," by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith and Jere Smith (Hall of Fame Press, 2008, 256 pages, $22.95 hardcover)

    To truly enjoy this extremely clever novel and its extra-innings ending, it helps if you are a fan of the Boston Red Sox, intimately familiar with Boston's Fenway neighborhood and conversant with the online practice of blogging.

    But should you strike out on these topics, never mind. The book is still a good read and, let's face it, in Vermont and the rest of New England (otherwise known as Red Sox Nation) most readers will have at least some knowledge of the team and therefore an appreciation of its recent (and long-awaited) success on the diamond.

    And, as a bonus, David "Big Papi" Ortiz, the team's superstar slugger and larger-than-life personality, adds a bit of zest to a plot that's already as tricky and slick as an unassisted triple play.

    The book is due out in August, as another regular season winds down.

    Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, who lives in Connecticut, has written several novels, some featuring FBI agent Poppy Rice in either major or minor roles. Rice makes only a cameo appearance in "Dirty Water," but her help is essential to the Boston police investigating a puzzling murder, the brazen abandonment of an infant in the Red Sox clubhouse and, not incidentally, a big-time scandal involving smuggling Cuban ballplayers into the United States.

    Her son, Jere Smith, is an experienced blogger (for three years he has been running letsgosox.blogspot.com) and a longtime Red Sox fan. In his private life, he works with the elderly in New York City.

    His contribution to "Dirty Water" is unusual: He provides fictional excerpts from his blog, including responses from its loyal readers, and they serve to keep the narrative moving and to provide interesting background. They also will appear authentic to readers who are habitual blog browsers.

    The fact that the fictional blogger has a close relationship with a member of the Red Sox inner circle gives his writing a ring of authority that eventually captures the interest of the police. How does he know so much about the status of their investigation? Is he stealing their signs? Or does he have a more cynical role?

    The key police figure is a Hindu (his religion deeply influences his temperament and his operating style) named Rocky Patel, whose rank is homicide detective first grade. His sidekick is a more typical Irish-American named Marty Flanagan who, unlike Patel, is a baseball fan.

    The two must solve the mystery of the abandoned infant (who is quickly dubbed "Baby Ted Williams") but also the virtually simultaneous death of a young woman found face-down in a muddy patch not far from Fenway Park.

    Needless to say, the detectives soon realize that the two mysteries are related: The dead woman was the mother of the baby found in the Sox clubhouse. But that's just the beginning.

    They still need to find out why the mother was killed and how (and why) her child was smuggled into Fenway Park on a day when the Red Sox were playing a double-header and therefore there were crowds of fans and police in the immediate vicinity.

    Of special interest to Sox devotees will be the parts where various players show a keen interest in the infant's welfare. These are the 2007 Red Sox, whose popularity in Red Sox Nation can hardly be overstated as they march to the World Series title. In this novel, their human side is on display, and even if it is fiction it will resonate deeply with diehard fans.

    The plot thickens when ESPN televises a photograph of a woman who, the sports network has been told, is the victim of the Boston murder. The photograph had been mailed to ESPN, with no return address.

    When a rookie pitcher on the Red Sox farm team in Portland, Maine, sees the photo on television, he is shocked speechless because the woman in the photo is his girlfriend. And when he recovers his voice, he insists she's a virgin, so the abandoned baby can't be hers.

    Wait. It gets even more complicated. Is the kid pitcher really from the Dominican Republic, as advertised? Is the photo shown on ESPN really the dead woman? What does the blogger know and how does he know it?

    To get all the answers, Patel and Flanagan have to use all their wits and, not incidentally, Patel's relationship with Poppy Rice at the FBI.

    The investigation spreads to Los Angeles (where Flanagan is astonished to see fans leaving a Dodgers game in the seventh inning, even though the score is tied; that would never happen in Boston), Arkansas and Miami, but most of the action is within a long fly ball of downtown Boston.

    There's an extremely suspenseful climax at a motel in nearby Somerville as Patel and his colleagues close in on the villains. Suffice to say that no Red Sox player suffers from the outcome.

    A.C. Hutchison retired as editor of The Times Argus in 1999.

    MORE IN Movies
    More Articles
    • VIDEOS
    • PHOTOS