Curveball, by Jen Estes: Sportswriter Cat McDaniel Exposes Corruption in Santo Domingo

Curveball ($15.95, 316 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-895-7), by Jen Estes, is the second book in a mystery series featuring female sportswriter Cat McDaniel. Curveball follows Cat to a Latin American training facility where she investigates the exploitation of young ball players.

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Also available in Kindle and in other eBook editions on Smashwords.

“A saucy, mysterious and pleasurable read …. Estes creates a lot of mystery and intrigue within the pages of this novel. This is more than a novel about sports; Curveball is so much more than that.”  Read more ….

–Hazel Westly, Portland Book Review

“Three words to describe Cat McDaniel: Sassy, smart, and sleuth …. Curveball is saucy, mysterious, and a pleasurable read. Ms. Estes creates a lot of mystery and intrigue within the pages of this novel …. Even if you aren’t a fan of sports, Curveball is so much more than that. Cat McDaniel is not a woman to be messed with, and she manages to make things happen in light of murder, scams, and much more. If you’re a fan of cozy type mysteries with a female sleuth, Curveball is a story you can curl up with and get lost in the pages for awhile. Why not grab a copy?”

Long and Short Reviews

“The puns alone make this a fun Major League sports mystery.”

–Carolyn Lanier, I Love a Mystery

4 Stars: “If you enjoy cozy mysteries, I think you’ll enjoy Curveball. And if you don’t happen to be a big fan of mysteries but do like baseball, you might be interested in reading this book for the other topics that are addressed.”

Melissa’s Bookshelf

“I enjoyed the writing style.  It was fast and comical …. There was a bit of a twist with the resolution and I was satisfied with the ending …. This is the second book in the Foul Ball series with Cat McDaniel … I’m going to look for the first one and read it.  This one is stands alone, though, so you don’t need to have read the first one to know what’s going on.  I hope there’s more to come in this series and from this author.”

Teena in Toronto

“A great new mystery series …. I really enjoyed the adventure and mystery with this story.  Wondering if Cat will survive Thunderstorm Paige and get her dream job!”

Book Lover Stop

“I enjoyed this immensely ….  I recommend this to anyone who likes a good cozy, who likes their cozy with a bit of a bump in the oh-la-la factor and likes a good belly laugh in top of it all. Even if you do not like baseball you will  get a dig-out with this book!”

Cabin Goddess

“Take a wild ride in the sport of baseball–even if you’re not a fan–you won’t be disappointed. Cat is a very strong heroine …. All of these characters, including secondary characters, are written very well. The author does an excellent job keeping you on your toes during the twists and turns that snake between the pages.”

Sapphyria’s Book Reviews

“Now I HAVE to read the first book!! Curveball was a great read!! Quite a page-turner!! If you like mysteries and romances this is a great book for you to pick up!”

Sweeping the USA

“The mystery was well crafted and took me a while to guess who did it. All in all, this book is a great read. Whether you like cozies, mysteries, or books about sports, this book is definitely worth the read.”

A Date with a Book

“Excellent mystery. The author does a fabulous job of creating characters that are believable, realistic, and heartfelt. The reader immediately either loves or has doubts about the motives of each of the characters in this mystery. The twists and turns are well constructed and some are very unexpected making it a page turner for the reader who may have thought they knew what was about to happen.”

Terri Forehand

“Fall in love with Cat and cheer when everything goes right …. Thanks for a great read, Jen.”

Bunny’s Review.com

“I read this book quickly and it kept my interest throughout…. The characters are realistic and the interactions were so spot on that I could picture them in my mind.I hope I see more of both Paige and Cat in the future.”

Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks

“This was a really great story – with lots of twists and turns to keep you on your toes.  You will want to cheer for Cat and love to hate Paige …. A fun, quick read filled with great ups and downs.  I loved the characters and can’t wait to get my hands on the first book to see what other adventures and missteps that Cat gets into.”

Stitch Read Cook

“Full of humor, hunky men, mystery and murder. Did I mention hunky men?? Yea that too…I loved it…you need to definitely get a copy if you love baseball and mysteries.”

Celtic Lady’s Reviews

“Full of twists and turns and the ending was a bit of surprise. A solid mystery … A story baseball fans will love!”

Dollycas

“This cozy has it all…..humor, mystery, murder, crime, a fun loving sports reporter on the hunt for finding the clues and nailing the bad guy, and a touch of romance. A wonderful combination to keep the reader fully engrossed. The pages kept turning, and I felt as though I was right there beside Cat, hunting down the clues, working with her crush, Junior and racing to miss the curveball, and find the murderer.”

Reviews by Molly

“Jen Estes did a great job creating the baseball scene and I felt as if I were really in Santo Domingo. It’s a quick read with great characters. The storyline is fast-paced and keeps readers trying to figure things out with Cat.”

Socrates’ Book Reviews

A blog tour for Curveball, sponsored by Partners in Crime, begins October 10th. Click here to keep track.

Baseball reporter Cat McDaniel specializes in exposés. Now that very talent has left her unemployed. Desperate to get off the bench and back into the lineup, she is thrilled to land an interview with the Buffalo Soldiers’ General Manager Roger “Rakin’” Aiken—Baseball legend, eight-time All Star … and oblivious father to a Major League bratty co-ed named Paige. Aiken offers Cat the team writer position for the following spring, but the opportunity is tempered by a curveball of a caveat: she must first spend the winter as a blogger reporting on the Latin American training facility. She is also supposed to look out for Paige, nominally the team’s newest scouting assistant. Being a glorified babysitter and chaperone still beats being an out-of-work sportswriter. Cat reluctantly leaves behind her gorgeous boyfriend Benji and accompanies the party girl to sunny Santo Domingo to balance baselines and conga lines. Paige falls for Chance Hayward, an agent who plays hardball—the figurative kind. Joining them on the field is Paige’s ex, Junior DeLeon, one of the coaches who’d really like to score with Cat. When an aspiring player turns up dead, it is up to Cat and Junior to devise a game-changing strategy. Will Cat’s snooping work in her favor this time, or will she strike out … losing her job, her boyfriend and her life? Curveball follows Big Leagues as Book 2 of the Cat McDaniel Mysteries, also known as the Foul Ball series.

Says Estes, “I didn’t just choose Santo Domingo for my setting; it chose me! The city’s passion for baseball burns hotter than the Caribbean sun. I also wanted to bring awareness to exploitation within the baseball industry and the effect that corruption has on aspiring ballplayers.”

Born and raised in Illinois, Jen Estes started her writing career as a baseball blogger in 2007 and expanded to freelance sports writing in 2009. She is an active member of the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR), Springfield Poets & Writers and the National Writers Union (NWU). When Jen isn’t writing, she enjoys running, yoga, traveling and watching baseball with her husband and cat. You can find her on the net at www.jenestes.com or www.cubblogging.com and on Twitter @jenestesdotcom.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

As they walked out of the restaurant, Cat caught the eye of a busy Cristian and waved goodbye. She tapped Chance on the shoulder. “That reminds me, we want to talk to you about your client.”

“Oh, that’ll cost you and Paige.”

Cat gave him a wary look. “Cost us what?”

“A walk on the beach.” He extended both arms. “One for each of you.”

Paige eagerly locked her right arm with his, but Cat pressed his left arm down to his side. She kicked off her sandals and let them dangle from her fingers before begrudgingly following the duo onto the damp sand.

A few fisherman could be seen on the jetty a hundred yards away, but otherwise they had the beach to themselves. Her steps broke the moist clumps and the powdery sand spilled out over her toes. The sand massaged her soles as they moved closer to the breaking waves. Living in downstate Illinois most of her life, Cat didn’t take the relaxing sound of the oceanic thunder for granted. The soft wind whipped her skirt around her thighs. As they approached the shoreline, the restaurant odors of garlic and grease were replaced with a salty tinge of sea air. The half moon smiled down upon them. It was a perfect moment, until Chance spoke.

“Not bad, huh?”

He said it as though he was taking credit for the beautiful evening. Cat sneered in his direction but it was too dark for the message to be received.

Paige looked around the vacant beach. “There’s nobody here. Is it always like this at night?”

“Almost. We’re just about at the end of our rainy season so the beaches will be busier. But on weeknights, most of the action is in town.”

Their stroll was nearing the rocks that bordered the end of the beach and led out to the jetty. Cat pointed up at the fisherman. “What are they trying to catch?”

Chance shrugged. “Hell if I know. I only eat it; I don’t hunt it.”

Paige watched them thoughtfully. “My dad loves fishing. Says it’s the only true way to get away from the field.”

“Let’s sit for a minute.” He placed his jacket on the sand.

Cat shook her head. “I’m good with standing. I was hoping we could talk about Cristian.”

Chance sat on the sand with his knees in front of him. “We will.” He patted the jacket. “Paige?”

Paige tucked her dress beneath her thighs as she sat on it, facing the ocean.

He scooted closer to her. “What do you think?”

Paige’s eyes didn’t leave the water. “Of the ocean, dinner, or you?”

He chuckled. “All of the above.”

Cat held in a groan as she waited for his predictable moves, expecting the yawn and reach any minute now.

He didn’t yawn, but sure enough, his tan arm slivered around Paige’s bare shoulders.

“Hmm …” Paige tapped her chin thoughtfully. “The ocean is beautiful. Dinner was delicious. And you, well you kind of pale in comparison. Perhaps you should’ve grouped yourself with the fisherman and that weird pile of seaweed over there.”

With his phony chuckles, Chance was beginning to sound like the laugh track from an eighties sitcom. Cat tapped her foot on the sand, but neither of them seemed to notice.

Paige tossed him a playful smile, but then was distracted by the aforementioned pile of seaweed near the jetty. She cocked her head. “What is that?”

In tandem, Cat and Chance turned around. “What?”

Paige stood up, dusted her dress off and pointed. “Over there, in the rocks.”

Chance squinted. “Probably just some litter.”

Cat shook her head. “That doesn’t look like litter.” She took off toward it.

Chance bounced to his feet and caught up to her. The waves smacked the rocks with loud slaps. Cat took slow, deliberate steps, as though trying to sneak up on the mound of seaweed. Another foamy wave crashed onto the shore, this time taking the pile of seaweed back into the ocean with it. Before she could take another step, Chance reached his arm out to stop her. “Cat, don’t go any closer.”

Cat gasped, choking on the breath wedged in her throat. It was too late.

She’d seen the body.

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