One hallmark of a good writer is the ability to follow a very successful first work with one that surpasses it. April Smith has done just that with her latest suspense thriller, Be The One. This new book reflects the same originality and thorough research as her North of Montana, which was widely praised by critics and readers. This time, Smith reveals her life-long fascination with baseball when she takes the reader behind the front office of the Los Angeles Dodgers to meet the club's fiercely competitive scouts, who are charged with finding and signing the league's future all-stars.

Cassidy Sanderson is the daughter of legendary pitcher Smokey Sanderson and the only female scout in major league baseball. Like her male counterparts, Cassidy is a hard-living, hard-drinking, passionate follower of the game; her life revolves around the young men who struggle to make it to the minors in the hope of a shot at the big time. She is constantly on the lookout for that rarest of diamonds, The One, a player who will carry the day and lead his team to victory.

A well tended network of friends and coaches alerts Cassidy to promising prospects. Although nominally assigned an area in the United States, she is drawn to a call from Pedro Padrillo, her father's teammate and a close family friend, who reports observing Alberto Cruz, a young player in the Dominican Republic. While in Santo Domingo observing Cruz's play, Cassidy begins a torrid affair with Joe Galinis, a flamboyant Greek developer from Los Angeles, who owns one of the city's plushest casinos.

Cassidy confirms Pedro's instinct that Cruz has the talent to reach the majors and convinces her bosses to fly him to L.

A. for a closer look. Soon after he arrives at the Dodgers's training camp, Alberto begins receiving blackmail letters, voodoo warnings, and a gruesome video all threatening to reveal the details of a fatal hit and run accident in Santo Domingo that might have involved him, Cassidy, and Joe Galinis. The blackmail threats evolve into violence when Cassidy advises Alberto not to pay; she is attacked in a nightclub parking lot and survives only because of the timely arrival of other customers.

Cassidy turns to Joe Galinis in an effort to sort out the pressures that seem to be crashing in on her usually hectic life pressures that jeopardize Alberto's chances. The police suspect an underlying drug connection behind the violent intimidation.

Cassidy herself becomes a suspect and feels her declining influence with the club as she pushes to elevate Alberto in the upcoming player draft.

Only a true insider could include the details that flesh out Smith's absorbing yarn as she brings all these strands to a stunning ending certain not only to make readers ask for more, but also help them appreciate the rocky climb from barrio sandlots to the majors.

John Messer is a writer in Michigan.

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