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Tim O’Mara hits a homer with ‘Sacrifice Fly’

Re­demp­tion can come in myr­iad forms. In Tim O’Mara’s in­trigu­ing de­but, one man’s atone­ment comes in the form of a life-af­firm­ing ca­reer change — from be­ing an in­tu­i­tive cop to a con­cerned teacher.

Ray­mond Donne left the Brook­lyn po­lice force soon af­ter he saved one child while on duty but in­ad­ver­tently caused the death of a teen­ager. The in­ci­dent also left him hand­i­capped. Now he teaches in a Brook­lyn school, in­volved with his stu­dents’ les­sons in the class­room and in the real world. He’s been known to try to save a stu­dent from an abu­sive home and then head­ing off to teach the in­tri­cate beauty of Walt Whit­man’s po­etry.

Ray was able to get eighth grader Frankie Rivas a com­plete schol­ar­ship to a pri­vate school be­cause of his im­pres­sive skills on the base­ball di­a­mond. But Frankie’s schol­ar­ship also hinges on keep­ing up his grades, so Ray is a lit­tle con­cerned when the stu­dent has been miss­ing from school for more than a week. But this is more than a tru­ant child. Ray dis­cov­ers the bat­tered body of Frankie’s father; Frankie and his younger sis­ter, Mila­gros, are miss­ing. Did Frankie snap, fi­nally fed up with this abu­sive father; or are the brother and sis­ter vic­tims? Ray’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion is ham­pered by an in­ter­fer­ing re­li­gious leader and the re­luc­tance of Frankie’s fam­ily to trust this ex-cop.

O’Mara’s strong char­ac­ters en­hance the sturdy plot of Sac­ri­fice Fly. Ray is a com­plex char­ac­ter who is con­flicted about be­ing drawn back into a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion. But be­cause he is no lon­ger a cop, Ray is ex­cluded by the cops from the de­tails of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and has no le­gal stand­ing as he tries to fol­low clues that he un­cov­ers. Ray learns that strad­dling the bound­aries of his cur­rent oc­cu­pa­tion and his for­mer ca­reer can be un­com­fort­able. No mat­ter how many times he says “I’m just a school­teacher,” he knows that is a pow­er­ful thing and that be­ing a teacher can change lives. A strong cast of sup­port­ing char­ac­ters adds to the in­ten­sity of Sac­ri­fice Fly.

O’Mara’s Sac­ri­fice Fly de­serves an A plus.

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