Sportsmen taking a knee have made headlines recently, so Kevin G Chapman’s latest Mike Stoneman story is a timely release. Let me explain why. Quarterback Jimmy Rydell has a starring role in Fatal Infraction. He’s a key member of the New York Jets American Football team and in the past ruffled a lot of feathers after taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Sounds pretty familiar to any England soccer fans reading this, right? But thankfully none of the Three Lions team have met Jimmy’s untimely end – because just days after arguing with a teammate at pre-season training camp, the player is found dead, his body abandoned at the carousel in New York’s Central Park. He’d been missing for three days, and it soon becomes clear that in the interim, Jimmy’s body had been kept in a deep freeze. It’s just another question to add to the long list facing Mike and his partner Jason Dickson – and with such a high profile case, the pressure is on to find the killer, and fast.
Jimmy might have been politically aware and a regular helper at a charity for underprivileged children, but he had also made headlines by shooting himself in the foot at a Manhattan strip club and being filmed swimming in the Central Park fountain with a well-known movie actress. There are also whispers that he was involved in an illegal ‘points shaving’ scam currently being investigated by the NFL. Mike and Jason struggle to cut through the hype and find the real Jimmy, and his bodyguard, Duke Drepp, is no help at all.
It soon becomes clear that Jimmy had plenty of enemies within his own football team. The suspect list just keeps getting longer and longer, and as if the pair hasn’t got enough to contend with, they get saddled with an unwanted companion in the shape of insurance claims investigator Graham Beckwith. He’s British, a former Met police officer, and works for Boyd’s of Britain, who insured the life of Jimmy Rydell on behalf of the Jets.
Graham is hoping to discover some dodgy dealing that will kill the multi-million dollar claim, and he tags along as Mike and Jason investigate, sometimes getting in their way but at other times proving a bit of an asset. The likeable Brit is an interesting addition to cast list, although with his umbrella and straight-laced attire he does occasionally veer towards cliche. (US authors please take note – no self-respecting British tea drinker would ever dream of putting creamer in their Earl Grey!)
We last met the New York detectives Stoneman and Dickson on board a luxury cruise ship in Lethal Voyage, and the ripples from that drama at sea are still spreading. It’s not all bad news though – Jason is building up to making a major life decision. That’s one of the great things about this series, the focus isn’t always on work, work, work; instead, Chapman gives his characters a personal life too.
But back to the case, and when a young street urchin turned shoeshine boy disappears too, all the alarm bells start ringing for Mike and Jason. Jimmy had taken young Tiger under his wing, now the boy is nowhere to be found. Is Jimmy’s death and Tiger’s disappearance connected?
Fatal Infraction is the fourth in the Mike Stoneman series and Kevin G Chapman’s best so far. It has a great flow, some lovely moments of humour and a clever plot. US readers will love the behind the scenes view of the world of American football, while we Brits might just want to scoot over those bits and concentrate on the tricky murder case instead. Either way, Stoneman and Chapman are a winning team!
We’ve previously reviewed Deadly Enterprise by the same author.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars