Dream Town by David Baldacci is the third in the Aloysius Archer series featuring former soldier, turned inmate, turned private investigator. A couple of years (in book-land, one year in real life) have passed since we last met Archer in A Gambling Man and he’s obviously been honing his detecting skills under stalwart and old-school PI Willie Dash.
We (along with Archer) are reunited with wannabe starlet Liberty Callahan here – though she’s more of a sounding board (and object of desire) than involved in Archer’s case.Dream Town
by David Baldacci
Series: Archer #3
Published by Macmillan
Genres: Crime Fiction
It’s the eve of 1953, and Aloysius Archer is in Los Angeles to ring in the New Year with an old friend, aspiring actress Liberty Callahan, when their evening is interrupted by an acquaintance of Callahan’s: Eleanor Lamb, a screenwriter in dire straits.
After a series of increasingly chilling events—mysterious phone calls, the same blue car loitering outside her house, and a bloody knife left in her sink—Eleanor fears that her life is in danger, and she wants to hire Archer to look into the matter. Archer suspects that Eleanor knows more than she’s saying, but before he can officially take on her case, a dead body turns up inside of Eleanor’s home . . . and Eleanor herself disappears.
Missing client or not, Archer is dead set on finding both the murderer and Eleanor. With the help of Callahan and his partner Willie Dash, he launches an investigation that will take him from mob-ridden Las Vegas to the glamorous world of Hollywood to the darkest corners of Los Angeles—a city in which beautiful faces are attached to cutthroat schemers, where the cops can be more corrupt than the criminals . . . and where the powerful people responsible for his client’s disappearance will kill without a moment’s hesitation if they catch Archer on their trail.
This opens with Archer arriving in LA to visit Liberty and we’re all immediately foisted into the action with a murder, a missing woman, a smuggling racket and two attempts on Archer’s life… all on his first night there. He literally stumbles across the smuggling ring but when he recognises crates he saw being brought ashore when he’s tracking down his client, it’s obvious that there are linkages afoot.
I love the way Baldacci weaves actual people and movies into his fiction with casual references to Hitchcock movies or seeing Clark Gable or Bob Hope at the bar. Because the case here involves a screenwriter from a prominent studio he’s very much in the thick of the glamour and grit of Hollywood, but at the heart of this is a dead PI, a missing woman, blackmailers, mobsters and drugs. All of which seem to be connected in some way.
Interestingly Archer is forced to ponder his mortality here and I’m trying to remember if he was as conscious of his fallibility in A Gambling Man. In many ways it’s refreshing to have someone consider the threat to their life without the usual bravado. It brings with it a sense of realism. And here – after the second near miss – Dash asks Archer if he’s willing to keep putting his life on the line and there’s a reminder that when someone’s heart is no longer in something they put themselves (and others) at risk.
I’m really enjoying this series. Baldacci’s writing and character development is outstanding here and he offers up a few changes at the end here so we’re sure we’ll see more of Archer but with a fresh approach.
Dream Town by David Baldacci was published in Australia by Pan Macmillan and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.