Tomorrow is the second meeting of our book club, which includes Serena, our husbands, and one of our co-workers. I realize now that I never talked about our first meeting in July, when we discussed The Hunger Games, but it was a great time. Everyone enjoyed the book, and we managed to get in a full two hours of discussion while eating chili, tortilla chips and cheese, and banana bread. (Interesting combination, but it was delicious.)
This time around, we read Dirty Water: A Red Sox Mystery by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith and Jere Smith (and we'll be having Boston-themed foods). Serena snagged a copy of this book at BEA for my husband, who's a huge Red Sox fan. I'm a sports widow (he's watching his Patriots play the Redskins as I type this), but as long as it doesn't bother him that I'd rather nap or read during the games, it won't bother me that he completely shuts out the rest of the world when his teams are on tv.
I'll admit I wasn't thrilled when his book was picked because it just didn't seem like my kind of book, but I'm glad I was willing to give it a try because I ended up enjoying it.
Dirty Water opens with the 2007 Red Sox finding a one-month-old baby in their clubhouse. The baby, nicknamed Baby Ted Williams, is fine, but the players soon learn that his mother, Cinthia Sanchez, is the woman who was found dead in the Back Bay fens. Strangely, an ESPN reporter receives a photo that supposedly shows the baby's mother, but the woman in the picture is not Cinthia Sanchez. Meanwhile, a minor league player for the Red Sox, Luis Sanseverra, claims that the women in the photo is his girlfriend, and he is distraught because she's supposedly back in Cuba and definitely not a mother. Enter David Ortiz, the beloved Red Sox player known as "Big Papi," who determines that Luis is Cuban -- not Dominican like everyone thought -- and he likely was kidnapped from his homeland and sent through a pipeline that brings talented Cuban baseball players to the United States.
Boston Homicide Detective First Grade Rocky Patel is put on the case because he's the best at what he does -- and the only one in the department unfazed about the Red Sox's involvement in the case. Patel and his partner, Sgt. Marty Flanagan, are complete opposites and make an interesting pair. The two are thrust into a complicated case involving a murder, a shady sports agent, illegal dealings in the realm of baseball recruiting, and a blogger who seems to know more about the case than they do.
While it's not necessary to know the Red Sox players to enjoy the book, I'm glad I pay attention when my husband talks sports. The mother-son writing team of Mary-Ann Tirone Smith and Jere Smith know baseball, and their love for the Red Sox and the city of Boston shines through in Dirty Water. I found myself missing my favorite city (I went to college in Boston) as I read the book. The plot was complex enough to hold my attention and keep me wondering, especially about the involvement of Baby Ted's family -- who seemed distraught by grief one minute and sketchy the next -- and I found myself fascinated by all the greed tied to "America's favorite pastime." (I know the book is fictional, but the greed is not.)
But what really impressed me about Dirty Water was the characters. I like how the Smiths used actual Red Sox players in the story, but the more I read, the more the Red Sox were pushed to the sidelines. Patel and Marty stole the show. Marty cracked me up, traveling to Los Angeles to learn more about the business dealings of the "superagent" and falling in lust with the agent's beautiful but equally shady receptionist. And I just loved Patel, a thoughtful, meditative family man whose way of speaking is out of place among the Boston accents.
At the end of each chapter, there is a post by Jay the blogger, whose main focus is the nightly Red Sox games and other baseball news. While the posts were interesting -- with Jay confronting disgruntled Yankees fans and revealing information about the murder case and the pipeline of Cuban players -- I didn't feel they were integral to the plot. But they didn't stop me from enjoying the book.
Dirty Water obviously is a must-read for die-hard Red Sox fans, but I think readers who enjoy a good mystery every now and then should give it a try as well.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Dirty Water at Book Expo America 2009.