Just finished David Baldacci’s latest mystery novel, “A Gambling Man,” another in the author’s long string of intriguing, deftly woven tales of odd characters facing long odds while making moral decisions.
Released this past week, “A Gambling Man” is the sequel to Baldacci’s “One Good Deed,” about recent World War II vet Aloysius Archer who was trying to put his life back together after being imprisoned for the “crime” of being involved with a young lady who could not refuse the entreaties of her law enforcement father. It is another world, one in which everyone is chain-smoking unfiltered Lucky Strikes and Camels while taking frequent swigs of hard liquor from ubiquitous flasks that seemed to populate every pocket and purse, often joined by small-caliber pistols.
To accomplish this life mending, Archer — who always avoided the use of his rather anachronistic mouthful of a given name and answered to his surname, as is customary in the military — took a bus west to meet up with the “very private investigator” Willie Dash about a possible job as a PI with Dash in his California coastal town. During an overnighter in the biggest little city of Reno, Archer befriended a gambling addict too deep into debt to the wrong crowd. After some fisticuffs, a car chase punctuated by small arms fire and the presumptive demise of the gambler, Archer wound up the custodian of a red, 12-cylinder, 1939 French convertible and in the company of a comely singer-dancer with the convenient post-war stage name Liberty Callahan, who had Hollywood ambitions.
Together they made it out of Reno alive and arrived in Dash’s corrupt town in time to become ensconced in an attempted blackmail investigation that evolved into bodies tumbling like dominoes.
Baldacci keeps the pace quick and the plot twisting and tightening ever closer to the penultimately evil culprit. Along the way he drops nuggets of tortured similes and metaphors like: “They heard the sobs as they approached the garage. They cut through the still morning air like a machete through bamboo.”
Or this gem: “Dash moved slowly across the room to greet the men. Where he had been frenetic seconds before, Archer could see the man was now all cool, calm, and as collected as a preacher about to dispense an easy dose of religion and then follow that up with an ask for money.”
There is an adequate helping of casual sex along the way, but not so detailed as to border on the pornographic.
“A Gambling Man” is another satisfying and mind tingling tale from the 60-year-old author of more than 40 novels. The prolific writer is already scheduled to release another in his Atlee Pine series in November. Can’t wait.