Only the drug pushers and scoundrels appear to thrive in Centre Town, Pa., home to the Class A baseball team Mets and childhood home of Cozzy Crager, the world-weary protagonist of Return to Dead City. Crager and Centre Town are a perfect fit. Batting booze and his worst nightmares of years spent on the Albuquerque police force, he's back in this decaying, crime-ridden town for the first time since he was a young man. Crager is barely settled into his gig as a detective when he gets an anonymous call of a murder. Lance Miller, the Mets slugging star with the shadowy past, has been found dead in a downtown hotel. Lance's time with the team had been brief, his relationship with teammates, lovers and others somewhat vague and mysterious. And so, Crager begins the task of following leads and ferreting out information, a job that takes him from the back alleys of the city to the halls of academia. Crager works alone and without as much as a stipend. Soon, he wonders why. For he will have his hands full. The police chief, an old friend, is uncomfortable talking about the murder. Later, he turns up the victim of an unexplained suicide. There's Mick Slaughter, the muscular health club owner, who may have supplied Lance with steroids to help revive the ballplayer's career. Mick appears to control the local drug trade. Other than Mick, the major suspects appear to be Lance's ex-wife, now living with Giles Hampton, a pompous and embittered college professor forced to leave his job due to a sex scandal, and Reba, a society matron married to Lance's brother, the team's owner who faces financial problems. Lance was stabbed once with a knife, but the murder weapon was never found. Despite the prevalence of street drug trade in the downtown and the homicides there in recent years, Crager refuses to see a connection between this murder and drugs. There's simply too many people in Lance's orbit with other reasons to see him dead. Lance had been called up to the Major Leagues on the very night he was murdered. In fact, his prone body is found in the hotel room next to his packed suitcase and a steroid pill. One or two of Lance's teammates, particularly a talented pitcher befriended by Mick Slaughter, also eager to get the call-up to join the big team in New York, can't be ruled out as suspects either. The story is told by Crager in unsentimental, no-nonsense prose. Tough and street smart with a flair for the wisecrack, Crager has more than his share of human foibles. In addition to a drinking problem, he can by bullying when diplomacy might better serve his purposes. His relationship with Pat, a single mom with three kids, while less than perfect, seems to be the single stabilizing influence in his life, though Crager is unsure where the relationship is headed. Colorful characters and irreverent humor make this story of a down-and-out gumshoe driven to solve a murder especially appealing. Crager, a guy who can take or give out a punch, has nothing to lose and perhaps something to prove. The horror of an accidental shooting which drove him from the Albuquerque police force just two years short of his pension haunts him. In Return to Dead City, Crager has come home without feeling exactly at home. For as Crager is to learn, Centre Town is a town where nothing has changed, but everything has changed.
About Mike Reuther
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Published November 1, 2012
by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction.