A Gambling Man (An Archer Novel)

Written by David Baldacci
Review by Bryan Dumas

After a near-fatal stay in Poca City (in One Good Deed), Aloysius Archer is headed west to become a Private Investigator. He hopes to hang his shingle in Bay Town, California working for a former FBI agent-turned PI, Willie Dash. A stop in Reno introduces Archer to Liberty Callahan, a cabaret singer with her eyes on Hollywood, and lady luck fills his pockets. After rescuing a debt-laden gambler from mobsters, Archer is repaid with a flashy 1939 Delahaye 165 imported from France. With Liberty at his side, Archer drives on to Bay Town, but Reno won’t leave them alone. Trouble follows, and Archer learns that Liberty has a past as ominous as his own.

In Bay Town, Archer finds a community divided by the haves and have nots. When a mayoral candidate comes to Dash and Archer with claims of an affair and blackmail, the duo sets out to find the culprit. When the alleged mistress is found dead in the town’s burlesque club, everyone becomes a suspect. As the bodies pile up, Archer is forced to dig deep into Bay Town’s secrets before he winds up a victim himself.

This sequel hits all the right notes. Archer is a perfect anti-hero—kind to women, leery of others, a gentleman in a less than gentlemanly world. Baldacci keeps the pace moving with just the right balance of history and action. Liberty is a wonderful foil to Archer, and I hope this duo continues in future installments. Small town politics, the roles of women, and the struggles that some people fought against the attitudes and prejudices of America in the 1940s are deftly woven throughout. Baldacci evokes the golden age of detective noir in this highly entertaining murder mystery.