Dream Town (Aloysius Archer #3), by David Baldacci

Eight stars

David Baldacci is back with another Aloysius Archer story that pulls the reader back to the early 1950s. A true gumshoe story that keeps the reader engaged and provides an entertaining tale of times when detective work was much simpler. Baldacci shows his versatility with this series, which is outside his usual style. Great narrative and strong plot makes for another successful addition to this series. Baldacci is on fire and shows no signs of fading.

As the clock ticks down towards 1953, Aloysius Archer makes his way to Los Angeles, where his friend, Liberty Callahan, awaits him. While they are getting comfortable and prepping for a lovely evening, one of Liberty’s acquaintances, Eleanor Lamb, calls to seek Archer’s assistance. While he hoped to have some quiet time, Archer won’t turn down detective work that may help bring in a little extra money.

A number of mysterious and creepy events have taken place, leaving Eleanor feeling as though she is being targeted. She wants to hire Archer to look into the matter as soon as possible. Sure there is more to the story, Archer reluctantly agrees to poke around, making plans to come by her home the following day. When he does, Eleanor is nowhere to be found, but there’s a body in the house, leaving Archer to wonder if she might have been responsible.

Archer wants nothing more than to solve this murder and brings Callahan on side to assist, as well as his partner, Willie Dash. As they investigate, things send Archer back to Vegas, where he has had some dust-ups in years past. Archer learns a little more about Lamb and her past, which includes rubbing elbows with some of the darker characters in town. When the investigation sends him to Hollywood, Archer is convinced he has a lead that could prove fruitful, all while Eleanor Lamb remains missing. Could someone have dealt with her as they did the body that started all this? Baldacci spins a tale that is both entertaining and captivating in equal measure.

In my two decades reading Baldacci novels, I have rarely been left feeling underwhelmed. Baldacci is just too great a story teller, no matter the topic or genre he presents. This is another example of that versatility, as he pens a story that is pulled right out of the gumshoe era, which differs greatly from many of his other series. There is so much going on and yet the reader can slide into a level of comfort easily, leaving them ready to learn more with every page turn.

Aloysius Archer has been a great character since he was first introduced. His backstory is always coming up, but it is the great character development that keeps the reader enthralled. The reader learns a little more about his interest in both detective work and as certain lucky lady, both of which come to a head by the closing chapters of this book. Archer remains down to earth and ready to impress, asking the right questions and yet always finding ways to get into just enough trouble to prove worrisome. I am eager to see where things are headed for him and how Baldacci will continue to shape Archer’s character in the years to come.

Many authors seem able to perfect a genre and work within it, even if they create a few series to keep readers entertained. Baldacci has done this and more, churning out great novels in a variety of sub-genres, all of which are of the highest caliber. I have loved many of them and contusion use to hope for more. This book has a strong narrative that left me feeling the pulse of the story from the opening pages. The plot advances effectively and finds ways of keeping me on my toes throughout, which can sometimes be a daunting task. Set seven decades i nthe past, there will always be interesting characters with which to contend and Baldacci finds ways of keeping them interesting until the very end. I see a number of loose ends left blowing in the wind and can only hope that Baldacci will address them before long, as my curiosity needs some sort of answer. While there is little chance Aloysius will have any crossovers with characters in Baldacci’s other series, I see a lot of great possible interactions as the series progresses.

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci, for this wonderful throwback piece. Keep them coming, as they offer a great contrast to much of what is in the genre nowadays.

A Gambling Man (Aloysius Archer #2), by David Baldacci

Eight stars

There’s something about David Baldacci and his writing that has me intrigued whenever I grab for one of his books. Always keen to depict a wonderful piece of sleuthing, Baldacci has a knack for bringing a story to life. In this series, he’s added a throwback angle, setting things in the early 1950s, which gives the reader another aspect to enjoy a great deal. Aloysius Archer has seen a great deal, having served in the war and spent a little time behind bars. Now he’s headed west, where he may have a job, working as a private detective, waiting for him in California. After a stop in Reno, where trouble and a few interesting characters find him, Archer’s ready to head towards the bright lights. There, he’s pulled into a case of blackmail and murder, which is just how someone wants to cut their teeth in the sleuthing business. A great story that shows just how versatile Baldacci can be.

It has always been Aloysius Archer’s dream to solve cases, even if he has no notable experience. He’s made it through the war and tried to come out of it a changed man. A few dust-ups left him to serve time for a crime he did not commit, but that is behind him. Now, it’s California that’s calling and a potential job working as a private detective under a man who has quite the reputation. All Archer need do is make it there and prove his worth.

Along the way, Reno, Nevada calls. Archer is no gambling man, but he agrees to take in the sights, if only briefly. After learning the art of gambling and risk taking, Archer and a new companion prepare for a venture west, but are hampered when a local man meets up with some trouble of the gambling debt variety. Archer’s big heart and wily ways help rectify the situation.

With the bright lights of California on the horizon, Archer proceeds to a small town to present himself, in hopes of solid work and something to show for himself. He’s pulled in for a quasi-interview, which turns into being tossed in the middle of a case. There’s an election for mayor and one of the candidates is being blackmailed. Archer will have to prove that it’s all nonsense and that the philandering is a smear campaign. Asking some poignant questions, Archer begins to see how the town runs and who is pulling the strings.

However, when a woman turns up murdered, Archer cannot help but take notice and suspects it is to silence her. Politics has always been a dirty business and Archer’s come to see that this is no exception. Delving into the darkest of corners, Archer must not only find out who has been blackmailing the mayoral candidate, but also why murder seems the only way to keep players in the scheme from talking. When a few others turn up dead, Archer realises that this is a case that will require much of his time and intuitiveness,.. What a way to begin life in the gumshoe business!

Versatility is key for any author who wants to stay at the forefront of writing. Readers can be fickle, or at least demand some new angle to keep them coming back. David Baldacci has done just that and it seems to work. Setting the story back in the early 1950s and working some more primitive angles (no smartphones here, gasp!), the reader can see how things were done when sweat and intuition served to grease the wheels of detective work. It all comes together nicely and I cannot say it was anything but a success.

Aloysius Archer has a laidback approach to life that makes him the perfect protagonist for this piece. Wanting nothing more than to live and let live—so long as it does not impede his ability to enjoy things—Archer does what he can on a daily basis. He comes off as gritty, yet not overly temperamental, seeking truth over trying to make trouble for others. Should the series continue, I can see myself wanting to know a great deal more about the man and perhaps more of his past, as well as what the future has in store. It’s sure to be an interesting experience for any reader.

Baldacci presents a handful of interesting supporting characters, all of whom set the scene well and offer a flavour to the story that helps substantiate its 50s throwback. There is a lot of work that went into this piece, the characters doing their part to help the reader feel fully involved. While some folks do come off as somewhat stereotypical, the story needed them to offset some of the bold and brazenness that emerges throughout the narrative.

While I have never been one to flock towards dime store novels that depict detectives and women who beg to be protected, this piece worked well for me. Baldacci paints a wonderful picture of life in 1950s America and things come together with ease. A strong narrative keeps the reader wanting to know more, while the characters add a certain depth to things that made me feel as though I were part of the action. The dialogue and vernacular certainly took me back, where I expected everyone to be smoking and the men donning fedoras. It worked and shows the versatile nature of David Baldacci’s writing. It’s certainly worth the gamble of any reader wanting something a little different.

Kudos, Mr. Baldacci, for another winner. You have me intrigued with Aloysius Archer and I hope to see him again soon!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: