“The Set Up Man” by T.T. Monday was published this year and is about a relief pitcher named Johnny Addock who plays for the Bay Dogs of San Jose, California. He is thirty five years old and nearing the end of his major league baseball career. With lots of time on his hands because of his position on his team, he has a side job as a private investigator helping out many baseball players on his own team and other teams as well. Most of his cases involve cheating spouses, but his latest case is brought to him by a fellow player named Frankie Herrara, a married man with twins. He comes to Johnny for help to find out who sent him a video of his wife from her younger days in the porn industry. Johnny thinks the job won’t be any more difficult than his other jobs, but he is soon in for a surprise when not long into the investigation Herrara is killed in a traffic accident and there was an underage girl in the passenger seat of his car who was killed as well.
Johnny goes to the deceased wife, Maria, requesting permission to continue the investigation and find out who murdered her husband. She agrees and Johnny is off. Johnny figures he needs to turn to another former player turned pornographer, Javier “Bam Bam” Rodriguez, who might be able to tell him from whom Herrara received the video. He asks for help with Bam Bam from yet another former baseball player named Marcus Washington, who runs a sushi bar. Unfortunately, before Johnny can learn anything from Bam Bam, he is killed by Washington in self defense. Johnny helps Washington dispose of Bam Bam’s body, and then he later goes back to the scene of the crime and sees for himself what happened. He also finds a white binder with data inside and takes it with him to check out later.
What Johnny is unaware of is that by taking the binder and also continuing to look for Herrara’s killer has just made himself a target. It is made clear to him he is in danger when after an away game his hotel room is ransacked and he has a confrontation with them in the parking lot. Johnny quickly leans on Washington and his girl friend Bethany for help. She is a seismologist with a PhD from Caltech, as well as a partner at a venture capitalist firm in Menlo Park. She has some serious contacts so Johnny has her search phone records, dig deeper into the video, and more.
Johnny learns about a culture he never knew existed in the major leagues including a prostitution ring. The underage girl named Ana who died with Herrara, was part of it along with numerous other Latino girls including her sister, Rosario. Johnny had been aware that major league players do like to be with other women besides their wives because of how much they are on the road, but he never expected to learn about prostitution and baseball together.
Intermixed in all of this writer T.T. Monday educates the reader on the type of baseball players there are; what owners are like, agents for players, how the build of a particular player makes them suited for pitcher, outfielder, and much more. He also mixes in some humor. I appreciated these lighter moments and the education into baseball as relief from Johnny’s investigation which gets more and more dangerous as the novel progresses. I won’t give away the various twists and who ran the prostitution ring, but I can say it pushes Johnny even harder to not only solve the murder but remove this tainted part from baseball.
I hope T.T. Monday writes another Johnny Addock book. I liked “The Set Up Man” very much. I’d like to learn if Addock will be able to juggle his baseball career going forward with his investigations or will he have to eventually choose between them.