Field of Schemes (Lloyd Keaton Mystery)
by John Billheimer
Review by Mel Jacob
Five Star Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781432826178
Date: 19 September 2012
Lloyd Keaton, a third generation sports reporter and reformed gambler, loves baseball. He has a soft spot for Dale Loren, once a major league pitcher, who works as a trainer for the local minor league baseball team. A player befriended by Loren accuses him of supplying steroids, but Dale denies it. Then the player turns up dead, a suspected suicide.
With his knowledge of baseball players and game outcomes, Keaton devises a set of factors that indicates which team will win. It's a sure thing. He is also fighting his gambling addition, but bets on the sure thing. Both he and his friend Dave lose big. He tries tracking the betting that occurred when they lost, wondering if someone had fixed the game.
Meanwhile, the bookies want their money, but Keaton doesn't have it. His wealthy friend Dave has fallen down an elevator shaft in his home and hasn't regained consciousness. Keaton fears something similar could happen to him. However, the bookies have no intentions of killing or seriously incapacitating losers. They anticipate repayment will be made over time at least in part because for gamblers betting is like air, they need it to survive.
In his weekly column, he attacks Congressman Bloodworth for his insistence on pillaring and prosecuting ball players over drug use considered legal at the time. He also takes up Dale Loren's unfair treatment by Bloodworth's committee. Believing Loren's innocence, Keaton is determined to find the ballplayer's supplier and clear his friend's name. He is stunned to learn his own son is using steroids and the high-school coach is encouraging it.
Keaton's enthusiasm for baseball is contagious. He gathers help from several police officers and Essie, a woman who lived near the dead ballplayer. They are instrumental in gathering information and locating a missing woman who claimed to be the ballplayer's sister. Essie agrees with Keaton that the ballplayer was murdered.
Baseball fans will enjoy Keaton's memories and commentaries. He's likeable and most readers will root for him in spite of his addiction to gambling. Even with its focus on illegal drugs and gambling, the novel has moderate language, no sex, and provides plenty of excitement and a twist at the end that may surprise most readers.