Books & Literature

Book Review: A Gambling Man, by David Baldacci


THRILLER: 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 book for those lovers of film noir or Raymond Chandler, with a hint of Jack Reacher—take a gamble!

Aloysius Archer is a man on a mission. He has survived military life, imprisonment, and a false accusation of murder. In A Gambling Man, he may find that if he is going to survive, he needs more than a gambler’s luck. When he reaches Bay Town, California, he meets up with his contact, the Very Private Investigator Willie Dash, to begin his new career as an emerging PI. 

His first case, straight out of the gate, is to investigate a blackmail scheme against one of two Mayoral candidates. As Archer begins to look into the details of the allegations, he finds that every dark corner of Bay Town hides a myriad of dirty secrets, deceptions, and outright lies. Politics is a dirty business at the best of times. In a town like this one, it’s murder.

Aloysius Archer first appeared in David Baldacci’s 2019 novel, One Good Deed. For those who have not read the preceding novel, Archer is a returned American serviceman who is finding his way in a post-war America. The difference between Baldacci’s and other similar-sounding novels is the setting. Archer lives in post-World War II America, making this the first time Baldacci has shied away from the presentday setting.

Within the pages of these novels, the reader becomes immersed in the era. Baldacci has done his research and does not shy away from the chauvinistic, misogynistic, homophobic, and racist attitudes of the time. The language is as true to the time as a Raymond Chandler novel. The action, as well as Archer himself, has the feel of one of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, which makes for a captivating literary combination.

The characters within the novel, and their descriptions, demonstrate the depth of research Baldacci has done into the era: even with minimal knowledge of the time period, the clothes are described with such detail that it sparks an image in your mind. The language—right down to what can best be described as ‘gumshoe speak’ and ‘police speak’—fits equally well. Baldacci has always had a way of taking his characters on a journey, which changes them from first to last page, and no one (the reader included) walks away unscathed. 

While this is a tale set in the past, it speaks to the present moment. It’s an ageless story of money, greed and power; reasserting the assertion that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts, absolutely.”

The only drawback with A Gambling Man is its denouement, with a little too much happening in far too short a sequence that wraps up a little too neatly. That said, I hope we haven’t seen the last of Aloysius Archer.

Reviewed by Glen Christie

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan
Released: 30 March 2021
RRP: $32.99

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