Go Go Gato by Max
Everhart. (Camel Press, Seattle, WA, 269 pp., $14.95). PB, 2014.
Sometimes all we really want
is some comfort food. Familiar and tasty, even when prepared by following the
recipe to a T, but in the hands of a talented, inventive chef, a good meal can
be elevated to fine cuisine.
And when it comes to mystery
fiction, the dishes are meant to be served up just as you’d expect, with the
different genres like a cozy or police procedural or caper just as distinct as
shepherd’s pie is from pumpkin pie.
So when Max Everhart’s novel
Go Go Gato is described as a classic
neo-noir detective tale, it’s definitely meant as a compliment, and when his
main character, former minor league phenom turned private investigator Eli
Sharpe, easily slides into the traditional smart-witted, sarcastic, borderline
alcoholic charmer mold, it’s like sinking your teeth into the perfect chicken
Of course, when baseball and
a mystery are paired, the baseball had better be as authentic as the
conversation, and the mystery as involving as the characters and setting, and
Everhart delivers. Gato refers to Almario Gato, a million dollar Cuban defector
who was a rising star in the Colorado Rockies minor league system until he
arrives in Sharpe’s Asheville, NC town as a member of the Tourists. His numbers
have taken a sharp nosedive, and now Gato is missing, leading his slick and
beautiful LA-based agent, Veronica Craven, to hire Sharpe to quickly and
discreetly locate her prized client.
The author’s choice to steer
clear of the diamond itself and to instead explore the pressure-packed world of
the minor leagues away from the clubhouse proves wise, as we watch Sharpe
quickly reveal a sordid story of groupies, druggies, and a major league front
office more interested in their investment and public relations than in helping
a player in trouble. Everhart takes us on a descriptive tour of the University
of North Carolina – Asheville campus from both a co-ed and professor’s
viewpoint, as well as the seedy downtown drug scene, with just the right mix of
realistic dialogue, self-recriminating introspection, and straightforward
sleuthing as Sharpe races against time to find the young troubled ballplayer
before his promising future slips away.
There’s a tasty dollop of
vicarious travelogue for the area, and the connection between two baseball
careers gone astray is infused throughout the book with just the right touch of
regret and potential redemption. As a result, Sharpe becomes, like every good
literary PI, an engaging, magnetic, flawed, multi-faceted, and most
character who’s more than meaty and likeable enough to carry the
narrative. And without any hint of spoilage, the story itself wraps up with a
Go Go Gato is a solid, realistic, and thoroughly baseball-based
mystery with an entertaining and believable main character in Eli Sharpe, and
Everhart’s appealing writing style enhances this book to an eminently
enjoyable, winning level.
And once you find a good
restaurant, it’s fun to go back and see what the cook’s next special is all
about. Coming in 2015 is the second installment in the Eli Sharpe series from
Camel Press, Split to Splinters,
about a baseball Hall of Famer, his dysfunctional family, and a missing 300th
win baseball. Make your reservations now!
Reviewed By: Mark Schraf (December 31, 2014)