When reading Jim Devitt’s self-published novel The Card: A Van Stone Novel, one can’t help but think of the classic cartoon Scooby Doo. In it, three high school students become entangled in a web of intrigue for which one must be willing to suspend belief to a large degree to buy into.
The story starts innocently enough, as 18-year-old Van Stone wins an essay contest to become a clubhouse go-fer for the Seattle Mariners major league baseball organization. This would be a summer dream for many young men, but it is not far into the novel that the connection to baseball is minimized and instead shifts to the mystery surrounding the Moe Berg baseball card given to Van by his father. (For additional information on why this is significant, see The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg by Nicholas Dawidoff. To give away more would be to compromise the ending of this book.)
Van’s father worked for a company called Biotrust, which is involved in high level, top-secret scientific research, before he left to become an independent businessman. Van’s precious possession, his father’s gift, is associated with a vicious plot to uncover a highly classified secret, sucking Van and his two best friends onto both a quest to solve the mystery and a fight for survival.
The book loses steam about a third of the way through despite some unexpected twists in the final 20 or so pages. The fact that Van and his friends never go to the police until a Mariners employee brokers a meeting is hard to fathom, and the reason given for this at the end of the story is nearly untenable. The dialogue between the three best friends is flat in most instances, and the closeness of the relationships of the main characters does not come through to the extent it could.
This reviewer could not find any information indicating that the book is specifically intended for Young Adult audiences. However, taken as such, it has more merit. The simplicity of the storytelling and character development would not be as much of a drawback in that case, and a young, male reader – in particular – might find this an enjoyable book to pick up as professional baseball heads into its playoff season.
A review copy was provided by the author. Dave Moyer is the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel, which deals with a young man, the game of baseball and the musician known as Bob Dylan.