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by Richard Perry

ALISON GORDON`S second crime novel, Safe at Home (McClelland & Stewart, 239 pages, $24.95 cloth), is a very sloppy bit of base-running. Gordon misses the bag rounding first: the "mystery" -- who is murdering young boys on the streets of Toronto? -- becomes immediately transparent, since no other suspects are provided to shift suspicion away from the obvious culprit. Stretching for a double, she trips over a sub-plot concerning homosexuality in big-league baseball: her treatment of a left fielder who comes out of the closet as well as the dugout is facile, sentimental, and diffuses any tension that the crime puzzle itself might have generated. Stumbling toward third, the novel attempts to portray child molestation, murder, and bigotry in a breezy, jocose fashion that relies upon a little wit and much weak buffoonery. The first woman to cover the American League season from both press box and locker room, Alison Gordon does have spunk, chutzpah, and the gift of gab; she`s savvy enough to write about what she knows best -- the newsroom and the ballpark -- and thus her protagonist, the sportswriter Kate Henry, speaks with admirable credibility and immediacy in this snappy, comic crime/sports novel. In her merry slide into home plate, Gordon could not care less, one supposes, that the reader has long ago gone back to the locker room in search of something more substantial.

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