Book Review: Last of the Seals by Greg Messel

Book Details:

File Size: 1019 KB
Print Length: 392 Pages
Publisher: Gregory W. Messel
Publication Date: April 23, 2012
Text-to-Speech: Enabled

Book Summary:

The year is 1957 in San Francisco. Sam Slater is a lifetime minor league baseball player for the San Francisco Seals. The Seals have just one more season left as San Francisco is about to become a major league city. The Giants are coming to town in 1958 and the Seals will be displaced. Sam has come to the end of his baseball career and is going to join the private detective agency of his best friend. When his friend is brutally murdered, Sam must go it alone and try to find out why. Along the way he is swept off of his feet by a beautiful Elvis-obsessed TWA stewardess named Amelia Ryan. Sam and Amelia try to unravel the mystery together. Sam’s best friend, Jimmy inadvertently saw something he shouldn’t have. Sam and Amelia have pictures in their possession that have crime families in San Francisco and Chicago very worried. Then a young woman Sam has been searching for is found dead on the beach. Suddenly, Sam and Amelia find themselves in danger. On dark and foggy San Francisco nights, trouble is lurking just around the next corner.

About the Author:

Greg Messel grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in Edmonds, Washington on the Puget Sound with his wife, Carol. “Deadly Plunge” is his fifth novel and is the second in a new series of Sam Slater mystery novels. Greg has lived in Oregon, Washington, California, Wyoming and Utah and has always loved writing, including stints as a reporter, columnist and news editor for a daily newspaper.

For more information about the author go to:

Book Review:

Last of the Seals is a blast from the past. Set in 1957 San Francisco, the book’s protagonist, Sam Slater, is at a crossroads in his life. He has been a popular long-time pitcher for the Seals, a minor league team affiliated with the Boston Red Sox; but the much beloved local team is being forced to relocate in order to make room for the incoming major league Giants.

Sam once had aspirations of playing for the Red Sox and even had a brief encounter with his dream team in 1941 spring training before being sent back to the minor leagues for more experience, but then World War II derailed his baseball ambitions for good, having to settle for a noteworthy career as a minor league player. In his mid 30’s, Sam decides it’s time to hang up his cleats and join his good friend Jimmy’s private investigation firm.

San Francisco also plays a prominent role in the creation of this novel—a perfect backdrop for every aspect of this multi-faceted story. The author’s love for this city shines through—at times acting as a travel guide for readers. If you’ve never been to San Francisco, you’ll want to go after reading this novel; and if you have had the pleasure of living or visiting the city by the bay, you’ll know that the author’s descriptive abilities are right on the money.

Like most native San Franciscans, Sam loves his hometown and can’t imagine leaving it to follow the Seals to Arizona. Sam has made his peace with his baseball retirement and is ready to join Jimmy in a matter of weeks after the Seals play their last game in San Francisco, but Jimmy is mysteriously killed and Sam ironically has his first case to solve. Around the same time, Sam rescues a beautiful TWA stewardess from the groping paws of a couple of unsavory drunk men—reminding us that the 50s weren’t quite the happy days history used to depict.

Amelia Ryan is 25, blonde, beautiful and a class act with a large Irish Catholic family who adore Sam from the moment they meet him. She is the ultimate 50s dream woman and a perfect complement to Sam’s tall, dark and handsome more mature man-of-the-world—a war hero, no less, from his World War II military service in Europe.

As a couple, Sam and Amelia are somewhat stereotypes of this iconic decade and yet they fulfill their roles perfectly. Part of the charm of Last of the Seals is the author’s craftsmanship telling a classic mystery sleuth story in the tradition of Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and Mike Hammer, perhaps with a bit less cynicism and violence.

The author finds his voice in these characters and his writing style is also indicative of the time period’s more succinct style of speaking. Messel does a superb job of transporting readers back in time as if we were on a Star Trek Holodeck watching the drama unfold right before our eyes.

In terms of Sam and Amelia’s romance, the author reminds us that anticipation of sex can be as sexy if not sexier than gratuitous sex scenes themselves. Amelia’s job as a stewardess keeps her away most of the week so their weekend reunions are filled with palpable sexual tension, and yet Messel stays true to the illusion of perfection that Sam and Amelia personify as characters.

Sam and Amelia become quite the investigative team; with the added assistance of Sam’s other war buddy, Vince (a San Francisco detective), the couple take on not one, but two cases in their first adventure—three counting the case connected to Jimmy’s murder. Last of the Seals is a plot-driven novel with a lot of stories working simultaneously: Sam’s bittersweet departure from baseball; his new romance with Amelia; the death of one of his best friends; and the learning curve associated with running a PI business without the benefit of any training.

Yes, the author has deliberately put a lot on Sam Slater’s plate in this first series installment. The question isn’t whether Sam and his associates can handle it all, but how well the author executes his mission in telling this tale. You won’t have to read too far to know that the author is a skilled writer, but don’t make the mistake of judging this book against modern mysteries because Last of the Seals is closer to a historical fiction period piece than the gore-filled, can’t-catch-your-breath plot tricks which typify today’s mystery dramas. We highly recommend Last of the Seals for lovers of great classic mysteries.

This book was reviewed as part of the Wise Bear Digital Book Awards competition. Entry fees associated with the contest are administrative in nature and do not influence our honest, unbiased book reviews.


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