Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace (2010) Joe Wallace is part of a community of writers I follow on Twitter (@Joe_Wallace), and I doubt I would have noticed his book if I hadn’t been introduced to it there. I’m so glad I was! I love mysteries, and, these days, anything about New York City – and this is a terrific mystery set in NYC. It’s also an unlikely baseball story, just as I am an unlikely baseball-story reader; I was a huge fan of the 1978 Yankees (for reasons I really can’t recall now), but otherwise I do not follow baseball at all. This story, about a young woman with a mighty pitching arm trying to make her way in a man’s world has almost made me want to become a baseball fan again! The character of Ruby is based on a real woman, Jackie Mitchell, who pitched for a short time in the early 1930’s for a minor league team – and struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game – before the commissioner banned women from the sport of the grounds that it was “too rigorous.” Diamond Ruby takes place bit earlier, opening with the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19 and continuing through the years of prohibition. It is set in a gritty, violent, racist New York (one I recognized from my friend Matthew Goodman’s terrific narrative history, The Sun and the Moon; but I’m sure they’ve fixed all of that by now, right?). Ruby’s story is a classic coming-of-age-against-difficult-odds story, but with the welcome twist that the tough-as-nails-but-tender-hearted protagonist is a girl. The beginning of the novel is a harrowing tale of loss and survival; the middle a fairy-tale peopled by fun, lively historical figures such as Babe Ruth and Joe Dempsey; and the latter part a mystery/thriller in which our plucky heroine saves the day. I gobbled this book up this summer and – flushed with the pleasure of a great read – I handed it off to my thirteen-year-old daughter. She was quite dubious – she knows nothing about baseball, and mostly enjoys fiction of the now ubiquitous genre inspired by Harry Potter. But she’s a good girl, and agreed to give it a try – and then promptly gobbled it up too!