Big, brash, good-looking Hondo Kenyon is one of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ best pitchers, a southpaw screwballer with the necessary skills and fastball to keep the opposition from tearing his head off, and the team is counting on the ex-small town Pennsylvania boy for help in their pennant run. On the other hand, Kenyon rates as a screwball in more ways than one. He has a long track record as a scoring jock with the ladies and his antics on or off the field are flamboyant and daffy, executed with lunatic fervor, sometimes funny of bordering on the ludicrous, always certain of coverage by the media.
With a reputation like that, it’s no big surprise to a lot of people when Hondo turns up dead in the electrically charged water of a condominium swimming pool. Slip Masters, the team’s public relations man, calls on his private investigator friend Max Roper to look into the case and find out for sure whether it was a legit accident or perhaps a crafty and ingenious murder. The Los Angeles cops have crossed off Hondo’s death as a weird accident, but Slip isn’t so sure. Neither is Max Roper, especially when he gets in closer and starts kicking things around and his investigations turn up some odd circumstances and a string of other murders. As Detective Lieutenant Camino of Homicide says, “On a Roper case they die on the hour, like flies. Death follows Max like a plague.”
Roper has plenty of leads to follow: disgruntled ballplayers, jealous boyfriends, discarded lovers, the dead man’s new-breed agent, a psychiatrist, a pool-maintenance person, a hippie plastic surgeon, condominium neighbors, some gangland types, a rock musician and a pineapple heiress ex-wife, among others. His travels take him from the baseball locker room to the seedy areas of Venice, a factory turned nightclub, exclusive watering holes, a chic tennis club, a new high-rise office complex—in short, a cross section of Los Angeles. Along the way to solving the case, Roper get shot at, arrested, beaten up, held at gunpoint and hit over the head, not necessarily in that order.