Van Stone, newest bat boy for the Seattle Mariners, has it made. He's quickly learning the ropes at work, enjoying an improved social status, and may even be allowed to purchase a car. Then tragedy strikes, and he finds himself embroiled in a dangerous mystery involving a recent gift: a baseball card for a mediocre player from the 1920s. Between suspicious men in suits, threatening letters, and gunfire, he and his friends need to piece together the puzzle before time runs out.
This novel takes us inside the world of baseball, or specifically, that of bat boys, with the introduction of Van's new job. For young sports fans, this may present a point of interest, especially as it is told through the eyes of a neophyte who is both awed and enthralled by each new experience. This "insider look" is one of the high points of the novel and encompasses a good portion of the beginning. The tragic beginning of the mystery is when the novel completely shifts gears.
The episodic nature of Van's detective work caters to younger readers and their reduced attention span. Still, it felt a little disjointed, even if it did come together at the end. As a healthcare professional, I was particularly bothered by the cavalier attitude that the book took towards unnecessary use of an x-ray device, especially when healthcare costs are ballooning. But I digress. As a whole, the story did well to avoid extraneous interactions and while a few more red herrings would have added more intrigue to the tale, its few plot twists were conducted rather nicely.
The Card is written in simple enough language that I would recommend it to middle grade readers and above. At times, the language became a bit awkward. The sentences often contained too much information without the lyrical flow to make them feel natural. The tone of voice also sounded like that of a much younger character, which is why I felt somewhat confused when Van first mentioned being able to drive a car.
On the whole, The Card is a quick read and light entertainment for a younger set, particularly for those interested in baseball.
(Review copy provided by the author)