Baseball, emergency medicine, and murder make for an engrossing debut thriller, The Perfect Game, from clinical psychologist Leslie Dana Kirby. While it starts a bit abruptly for my taste, it doesn’t take too many pages to grab the reader with the bludgeon murder of the sister of emergency medicine resident, Lauren Rose and wife of baseball star pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Jake Wakefield.
The third person narrative is limited to Lauren’s point of view, and most of the first half of the book deals with the police investigation and Lauren’s fears that they suspect her of the crime. The second half of the book is devoted to the trial of the accused killer, one of those trials of the century. It is the kind of trial that gets round the clock coverage on cable TV, a trial much reminiscent of the celebrated O.J. Simpson debacle.
Wakefield is the type of charismatic all-American idol, an athlete with good looks, charm, and a fortune, but it doesn’t take long before questions about him to arise. Wakefield seems much too good to be true. Questions are also raised about Lauren and her relationship to her sister. Was she jealous of her sister’s glamourous life style; was she jealous of her sister’s handsome super star husband?
She and Wakefield bond over their grief, as well as their interest in baseball and their feeling that the police aren’t really doing their jobs. They begin to see each other fairly often given her work in the emergency room and his game schedule. She begins to feel an attraction to him, an attraction that he clearly cultivates.
The longer the police investigation, the more worried Lauren becomes that they have honed in on her as their prime suspect. She is given lie detector tests. Her apartment is searched and much of her belongings confiscated. She has her DNA tested. She is even photographed in her under garments. And all the while she is told by the investigators that they are only interested in eliminating her as a suspect. Through it all, Kirby captures her fear and misery over how the investigation is going.
While the surprising conclusion to the tale may be revealed a bit awkwardly given both the narrative point of view, and its stretching of credibility, by the time the reader gets that far into the story, it is likely that he will be happily willing to suspend his disbelief. The Perfect Game is not a perfect book, but it is a tale that kept this reader happily turning pages.
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