Edgar winner Rosen (for Strike Three, You're Dead) has written three well-received mysteries starring laconic ex-ballplayer Harvey Blissberg of Boston. The fourth is an asymmetrical novel that moves uneasily between Portland, Maine, and a handful of fictional Chicago suburbs as Harvey, investigating the last days of a dead realtor, finds out a lot about dishonesty, betrayal and revenge. Larry Peplow, with few friends in Garden Hills, Ill., and a curiously empty life, left little to explain a bullet to the head. His past reveals more. He was once a psychotherapist in Maine, with a woman patient who committed suicide. Harvey, moving just ahead of the local cops, cheats on his longtime lover with a randy Garden Hills housewife. While most of the segments set in Chicago sections seem lifeless, those set in the East unleash a deluge of pertinent information. Rosen writes crisp dialogue but he overburdens his characters with flaws, and Harvey's baseball life is an ace too rarely played. The verve shown in Rosen's earlier work is missing here. Readers will hope it's just a slump. Author tour. (Oct.)
Harvey Blissberg, ex-major league outfielder turned private eye, is summoned to Chicago by his brother, Norm, to look into the murder of real-estate agent Larry Peplow. Norm once played basketball with Larry and feels an obligation to this pleasant, apparently family-less man whose death the police appear to have chalked up to street crime. Harvey takes the case, if only to assuage his brother's sense of obligation. What he learns isn't pretty: Peplow worked primarily with a development that may be located on a toxic-waste site; he was something of a lecher; and he worked as a psychologist until one of his female patients, with whom he had an affair, committed suicide. Harvey, involved in a fling of his own, finds himself wondering whether he is as dishonest as Peplow. This fourth Blissberg novel is another strong entry in a steadily improving series. The ex-ballplayer gambit fades in significance as Harvey's character evolves. In the tradition of Bill Pronzini, Lawrence Block, and Joseph Hansen, Rosen is creating a fictional biography one book at a time.