A Player to be Maimed Later

Lloyd Keaton—who killed a successful sportswriting career with a gambling addiction—gets a second chance at the big time when Blaze Stender, a retired pitching superstar, asks his old friend to write his biography.

Keaton is barely on the job two weeks when Stender’s pleasure boat crashes into a Lake Erie breakwater; the pitcher is missing and presumed dead. Keaton continues his work on the biography, but soon discovers that the facts of his old friend’s life are at odds with his popular image, and that Stender was keeping some dark secrets, including blackmail payments that could be related to a mysterious death. Stender’s widow tells him to stop, but Keaton can’t stop following a story, even when it leads to another killing and the reporter himself becomes the target of an unknown assailant.

The answers lie beneath the ice of Lake Erie, and when Stender’s body is finally discovered, those answers threaten Keaton’s ethics, his career, and even his life.


“Sportswriter Lloyd Keaton gets more than he bargained for when he agrees to pen the biography of a famous pitcher. Baseball fans and mystery fans alike will cheer as Billheimer goes into extra innings with a puzzle as ingenious as he offered in Keaton’s debut.” —Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

This sophomore entry (after Field of Schemes) is just right for sports mystery aficionados, providing plenty of baseball chatter and a sideline of poker exploits. Cleverly interspersed with Lloyd’s newspaper column entries, the story unfolds with a slow windup, gaining momentum as the pages whiz by —Library Journal

“A winner – real intrigue and real suspense, plus real sardonic charm.  I loved this book.”

–Lee Child, New York Times bestselling author of the Jack Reacher series

“A beautifully observed and deftly written tale that clearly demonstrates the author’s love of baseball combined with sure-footed ability to involve even those readers who aren’t avid sports fans in this intriguing mystery. Yet another smooth and satisfying read from John Billheimer and a must-read for fans of his Owen Allison series.”

–Zoë Sharp, author of the Charlie Fox crime thriller series