A Gambling Man by David Baldacci #BookReview #FirstMondayCrime


Evoking the golden age of crime, and for fans of Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie, comes A Gambling Man, from one of the world’s bestselling thriller writers, David Baldacci.

A lucky roll of the dice

California, 1949. Aloysius Archer is on his way to start a new job with a renowned Private Investigator in Bay Town. Feeling lucky, he stops off at a casino in Reno, where he meets an aspiring actress, Liberty Callahan. Together, they head west on a journey filled with danger and surprises – because Archer isn’t the only one with a secretive past.

A risk worth taking

Arriving in a town rife with corruption, Archer is tasked with finding out who is doing everything they can to disrupt the appointment of a top official. Then two seemingly unconnected people are murdered at a burlesque club. In a tight-lipped community, Archer must dig deep to reveal the connection between the victims.

All bets are off

As the final perilous showdown unfurls, Archer will need all of his skills to decipher the truth from the lies and finally, to prove she’s a star in the making, will Liberty have her moment in the spotlight?

First Monday Crime is actually Second Monday this month but I'm sure you'll agree that the fabulous panel means it's worth the wait! At 7:30pm on Monday 12th April, join David Fennell (The Art of Death), Sarah Pearse (The Sanatorium), Matt Wesolowski (Deity) and David Baldacci (A Gambling Man) with moderator, Jacky Collins on Facebook Live.
I'm delighted to be sharing my review of A Gambling Man today. Many thanks to David Baldacci, Pan Macmillan and Joy Kluver for inviting me and for my copy of the novel.

First of all, a confession - this is the first book I've read by David Baldacci. Therefore, it might be a little presumptuous of me to say that I have the feeling he had a ball writing A Gambling Man. It's a novel that exudes the atmosphere of post-war America and is a compelling portrait of a man and a country coming to terms with a new way of life.
As I haven't yet read the first Aloysius Archer book, One Good Deed, I can confirm that A Gambling Man can easily be enjoyed as a standalone, particularly as Archer is headed for Bay Town to start a new job as a Private Investigator. On the way he stops off in Reno where he meets wannabe starlet, Liberty Callahan. The wise-cracking, sizzling chemistry between Archer and Liberty is one of the highlights of the book, perfectly evoking the spirit of period icons, Bogart and Bacall. Archer's moral code isn't pious by any stretch of the imagination but it is resolute even when, as here, it earns him potentially dangerous enemies. It's not surprising that he intervenes when he comes across a recent acquaintance in trouble and as a result winds up the owner of  a Delahaye 165 Cabriolet.. It's not a car I was familiar with but to call it stunning is an understatement - although it's hardly a vehicle suited to undercover work!.
Liberty agrees to accompany him to California and after an eventful journey to Bay Town which allows Archer and the readers a clearer insight into the sort of woman she is, he is soon thrown into the deep-end when his new mentor, Willie Dash takes on a case which embroils them in the very heart of the town's political and social elite. 
It's not surprising that the great and the good are mired in corruption but a brutal murder presents Nash and Archer with a locked-room mystery to solve. It's here that the comparison with Agatha Christie becomes more clear, though of course if her books symbolise country house Englishness, A Gambling Man epitomises late Forties Americana. Although there's an ever-present sense of danger throughout the novel, as the body count rises so does the tension as the immersive scene-setting of the earlier chapters eventually leads to an exciting, nerve-wracking confrontation. 
A Gambling Man is historical crime as its most authentic and almost feels like a book written in the period in which it's set, although Archer is perhaps more enlightened than many men of the era. He is a wonderfully engaging protagonist who embodies the uncertainty of a generation still recovering from the horrors of war and yet ready to look to the future. However, as he discovers here, the country may be on the cusp of change but there are still laws and moral prejudices which almost invite exploitation and blackmail; this is certainly no rosy-hued pastiche of the age. The women might be prized for their bodies but many prove they aren't mere decoration and shouldn't be underestimated. Liberty is sure to be a favourite with readers but she isn't the only strong woman who makes her presence felt here. 
A Gambling Man isn't a particularly fast-paced thriller and though there is always a menacing suggestion of violence, much of it is off the page. Likewise, Archer is clearly a man who can handle himself in a fight and isn't averse to playing dirty if necessary but his intuitive disposition and quick wit are often more useful. He obviously still has much to learn about his new role and having already made an impression which could leave him a marked man in Bay Town, I'm intrigued to discover whether trouble finds him or he finds trouble in the next book. I can't wait to read it! 

A Gambling Man will be published in the UK by Pan Macmillan on 15th April 2021, purchasing links can be found here but please support independent bookshops whenever possible.

About the Author

David Baldacci is one of the world’s bestselling and favourite thriller writers. A former trial lawyer with a keen interest in world politics, he has specialist knowledge in the US political system and intelligence services, and his first book, Absolute Power, became an instant international bestseller, with the movie starring Clint Eastwood a major box office hit. He has since written more than forty bestsellers featuring most recently Amos Decker, Aloysius Archer, Atlee Pine and John Puller. David is also the co-founder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across the US.