Aloysius Archer has always been a sucker for fast dames and fast cars. They’ve both landed him in jail before, but he can’t resist their siren calls. In bestselling author David Baldacci’s new Archer sequel, A Gambling Man (Grand Central), Archer has just been released from jail on the East Coast when he hops on a Greyhound Bus heading westward to become a private investigator in Bay Town, CA. All he’s got is the clothes on his back and an Army Honorable Discharge for his service in World War II.
A quick stopover in Reno lands him with a new dame, aspiring actress Liberty Callahan who has her sights set on Hollywood, and a sweet ride in a snazzy blood-red French 1939 Delahaye convertible. Archer has won the car in a poker game, but its prior owner owes a sizable debt to some bookies. When they attempt to seize the car in payment, Archer and Liberty manage to escape their clutches and arrive unscathed in Bay Town, but the peace and quiet are short-lived.
POLITICAL SCANDAL WITH A SIDE OF MURDER
Upon meeting his new boss, an old-time PI named Willie Dash, Archer lands in the thick of a political scandal — a blackmail scheme involving an affair with mayoral candidate Douglas Kemper, who is seeking to fill the vacancy left open by the former mayor who was found dead in his bathtub. Wealthy in his own right, Kemper is the son-in-law of Sawyer Armstrong, the man who runs Bay Town and whose influence seems to extend in every direction, including the cops and Midnight Moods, a burlesque card club.
Ruby Fraser, Kemper’s alleged lover, has been murdered at the club, and all fingers seem to point to Kemper. Convinced someone is framing him, Kemper hires Archer and Dash to prove his innocence of both the affair and the murder. Liberty replaces Ruby as the headliner at Midnight Moods and promises to keep her eyes and ears open about the Kemper-Fraser affair for Archer. Still, the body count continues to rise. The corpse of Kemper’s associate is also discovered at the club, and there are two suspicious deaths at Dash’s office building. The question remains: who is blackmailing Kemper and why do they want him out of the mayor’s race?
The twisty plot thickens into a cat-and-mouse game among Kemper, Armstrong, Beth — Kemper’s beautiful wife — the police, and Archer and Dash. And when the PIs untangle the truth behind a string of long-kept secrets from Armstrong’s past, they discover their tragic relationship to the present crimes.
COMPLEX MYSTERY LEADS TO A MEMORABLE PAYOFF
There’s plenty of suspense as Archer repeatedly risks his life to prove his instincts as a gumshoe. Baldacci has created a terrific antihero in Archer. He’s a WWII Veteran, young, tall, handsome, and quick with his mind and knuckles.
As Dash instructs him, “You have to follow the money, Archer. It usually takes you where you need to go.” This adventure takes Archer sleuthing from the wealthy hills overlooking Bay Town to the seedy Midnight Mood, and up and down the California coast to uncover the dangerous enterprises and characters that tie the murders together.
In A Gambling Man, Baldacci immerses the reader in the post-war atmosphere of the 1950s with his colorful language, descriptions and historical references. Honestly, the smart dialogue between the characters comes off a bit too smart, making them appear to be cartoons rather than real people. However, the Kemper blackmail plot is merely the tip of the dark side of the iceberg called Bay Town, and the reader must wade through a muddled mystery for a payoff reminiscent of Chinatown.
Fans of Baldacci should go all in for A Gambling Man. This spicy novel deals out a hand of brothels, gambling dens, drug operations and government corruption, which is a sure bet for a rollicking good time.