Rich Kisielewski,
Da Bushes
(PublishAmerica, 2003)

Meet Harry Mickey Shorts, private investigator. He has a brain, for sure, and one that he's well capable of using. He has physical prowess, too, but he doesn't let that stand in his way. A former baseball whiz-kid who didn't quite make it to the majors -- in fact, he didn't quite make it in the minors, for that matter either -- his problems go back a long, long time. A former husband and father, he again didn't quite have the knack of taking things seriously enough when it counted.

So much for his good points. He is always a few dollars short, devotes much energy to chasing women and manipulates those around him.

Don't be put off. Rich Kisielewski's first novel has introduced a strong lead character to the overcrowded world of mystery. Given time, Shorts might end up there with the Sam Spades and Philip Marlowes of this world.

We meet him at age 31, steadfastly ignoring the mid-life crisis that is breathing down his neck. His off-the-cuff manner of addressing the reader belies some sincere heart-felt attitudes. Each chapter is ended with a curt, contemptuous even, dismissal (actually, very inventive and at times hilarious -- a smart idea by Kisielewski), but his relationship with his children and ex-wife indicates it's all a show.

One day, his luck changes when the head of a multinational company seeks his discreet help. A new minor league baseball team mysteriously lost form mid-season and the owner wants to know why. Shorts is able to enter the organization as a player-coach and, a decade after his ambitions slipped away, relive the old dreams.

From the vantage point of a member of the staff, part of the team and a hard-living P.I. with a heart of gold, Shorts pieces together the fragments, enlisting the aid of a number of people (some to seek the solution and some to enjoy the pleasures of life).

The result is a fascinating not so much who-done-it as a how-and-why they did. For those not into baseball, Kisielewski uses enough of the language and situations to make you feel you are there, deep in the environment and understanding it; but he never dazzles you with science. It's a mystery, not a sports book.

Nitpicking? I really wonder whether a player can make it back to the level he quit a decade earlier.

The short, sharp chapters are excellent, reflecting our hero's probably undiagnosed ADHD. Shorts is not quite as smart as he thinks he is, but is a bit more clever than he realizes. I'm looking forward to his next adventure.

- Rambles
written by Jamie O'Brien
published 10 July 2004

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