Love and Death at the Encierro: A Harold Gatewood Mystery, Vol. 1

Hal Graff

Publisher: Harold Graff II Publishing Pages: 169 Price: (paperback) $8.99 ISBN: 9781960684950 Reviewed: June, 2023 Author Website: Visit »

Hal Graff’s novel–the first in a planned series—finds a major league baseball player involved in an international affair that threatens his vacation, his return to baseball, and the woman who has drawn him towards a dark European revolution.

Harold Gatewood only wanted to live the all-American dream: grow up corn-fed and husky and become a wonder in major league baseball. However, his trip to the show proves an uncomfortable fit, and soon Harold is pondering a future without America’s favorite pastime. Earning a Ph.D. in three years, he conquers the business field and is ready to make a miraculous comeback to the major leagues.

As Gatewood takes a break from his plans, with a quick Spanish adventure, the national commander of the AIO, a group of self-proclaimed Basque patriots, puts a terrifying operation in motion. Because of its penchant for violence, the AIO is considered a terrorist organization. What Harold doesn’t know is that his friends may be mixed up in Operation Ice Chest, a mission to assassinate American interlopers to highlight the group’s cause. Gatewood’s new love interest provides the connection, her father being the man soon responsible for making Harold the center of the ensuing political turmoil.

Graff’s descriptive travelogue of love and adventure as Gatewood traverses the Spanish countryside is the novel’s highlight. Unfortunately, it is far stronger than the complex Basque storyline, in which credibility often falters. For example, Gatewood’s accomplishments—two Gold Glove honors and a rapidly earned PH.D.—strain plausibility, given the focus required for such successes. The fantastical details of Gatewood’s back story keep readers from buying into his character unreservedly.

And while the whirlwind romance is fun to watch develop, once it’s ingrained in the greater story, some tension is lost amidst the military details of the operation.

Ultimately, while the story offers some rewards, its mix of genres never quite gels, and readers are likely to be more confused about the goings-on than fully engaged.

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