Willie Nelson once sang, “Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys,” but, mamas, when you finish The Setup Man, you’ll be singing the same thing about baseball players. Especially the pitchers. Major League player Johnny Adcock’s pitching arm is getting creaky, and being an intelligent man, he sets up an après-baseball career by moonlighting as a private investigator. Soon other baseballers come flocking to him for help. One of them is Frankie Herrera, a fellow teammate with the San Jose Bay Dogs, who asks Adcock to find out who posted his wife’s porno video on the Internet. Adcock, eager to help a friend in trouble, agrees.
The budding blackmail case turns into murder when Herrera is killed in a suspicious car crash along with a prostitute. Neither of the Herreras, it seems, were especially faithful. But even with his friend dead, Adcock refuses to let the case go. To save the widow Herrera’s reputation, he starts sniffing around the offices of a California porno king‚ another baseball player‚ to see if the video could have been leaked from there. A warning here: details of the porno business, and Mrs. Herrera’s sex tape in particular, are described in detail. So if you’re looking for a clean-cut read, look elsewhere; The Setup Man is a raunchy book. One thing leads to another, and soon Adcock finds himself helping yet another Bay Dogs teammate dispose of a dead body.
Despite all the sex and all the murders (there are several), The Setup Man is as filled with comic relief as a caper novel. That’s a tribute to author Monday, who knows baseball backward and forward and has a ribald sense of humor, as well as a jaundiced, yet loving, view of the men who play the game. In describing one player’s sex life, he says, “The pervert is never actually the guy with the scraggly white beard. Just look at politicians.”
In Adcock, Monday has created a flawed, yet eminently likable and believable protagonist. Adcock will do anything to help a friend, even when it means endangering his precious pitching arm or his life. From start to finish, The Setup Man is a speedy, enjoyable read, and baseball fans will be eagerly awaiting the next installment of Adcock’s adventures.