Week ending April 18, 2014
McGarrity, Michael. Backlands: A Novel of the American West. Dutton. May 2014. 512p. ISBN 9780525953241. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698157118. F
McGarrity’s second novel (after Hard Country) in his sweeping Kerney family saga set in southern New Mexico covers the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and World War II. Sick with a weakened heart, independent Emma Kerney moves from town to her ex-husband’s ranch where she can be cared for. Patrick, her gruff former spouse, struggles to build an amicable relationship with their son, Matt. Preferring school over life on the ranch, Matt seeks refuge in town after his mother’s death. Patrick and Matt are frequently at odds over finances, Patrick’s alcoholism and past mistakes, and the running of the ranch.
Verdict McGarrity’s well-researched details about life in New Mexico during the Great Depression will appeal to historical fiction fans, and his details about life on the ranch will appeal to readers of fiction set in the West. Loyal fans of the Kevin Kerney mystery series will also seek out this novel.—Emily Hamstra, Univ. of Michigan Libs., Ann Arbor
Monday, T.T. The Setup Man. Doubleday. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9780385538459. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385538466. MYS
Johnny Adcock is a major league relief pitcher, a setup man. He also has a sideline discreetly investigating his colleagues’ problems. His familiarity with life in the big leagues has made him the go-to guy for other players who don’t want to involve the police or private investigators in their personal lives. When a teammate asks him to look into the origins of a homemade video featuring his wife in compromising positions, Adcock starts digging and finds danger and links to murder and human trafficking. A possible trade to the San Diego Padres only complicates matters, leading Adcock to question his career in the major leagues as well as the motivations behind his investigative avocation.
Verdict Featuring a colorful cast of characters, both on and off the field, and enough details about professional baseball to feel accurate without losing the nonfan reader, this debut is a fast-paced mystery that is both a satisfying whodunit and an entertaining look behind the scenes of professional athletes’ lives. It should appeal to baseball fans and readers looking for a complex, contemporary mystery novel.—Dan Forrest, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green