Frog (Random House), Oct 2008, $25.95
Denver based bail bondsman CJ Floyd is in Hawaii on his honeymoon when he learns that Shandell Bird, the friend of his godson reporter Damion Madrid, was shot and killed at center court. The two friends had led Colorado State University's basketball team to the NCAA basketball championship game losing to UCLA. Bird was the NBA’s second overall draftee.
With a desperate need to know why especially when rumors sprout that the late superstar tanked the UCLA game and the murder was obviously a professional hit, Madrid begins to investigate after receiving the investigator’s point spread from CJ's partner Flora Jean Benson. From the islands CJ also arranges special protection of Damion by some cronies. Another former teammate insists Bird was dealing in their Five Points neighborhood, which seems illogical to Madrid as Shandell was worth millions once he went NBA. However, as he begins to uncover a side of his friend he never knew especially the roles of the superstar’s retinue Madrid begins to learn the full truth including the secret that Bird tried to hide from everyone even in death.
Whereas CJ takes a breather (see THE MONGOOSE DECEPTION), Madrid cuts his teeth on an investigation that at times is amateur sleuth because he fumbles and bumbles his way until he realizes what Benson warned of; this is no game with preset rules as his adversaries will make them as needed including killing nosy former teammates. The story line is driven by Madrid’s obsessive need to know but along the way his naive innocence turns to hardball reality that in the game of life, your teammates better not be shaving the score.