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Book Review: Dream Town(Archer #3) by David Baldacci

Author: David Baldacci

Published by Pan Macmillan India

Genre: Detective Thriller

MRP: Rs. 699/-

Dream Town is the third book in the Aloysius Archer Series and it is my first time reading a Baldacci(I know, right!). I did not feel I was missing anything even though this is the third book of the series, all the necessary context was provided. The book is set in, as titled, the Dream Town, the city of Angles, Los Angeles. And it's set in the ’50s, so it has a noir-esque vibe to it. Baldacci has done a brilliant job in creating the 50’s Hollywood for the reader. The descriptions, the movie-actor references. An era of flashy movies and movie stars like Kate Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Marilyn Monroe, and Bette Davis. It is also the time of casting couches, adultery, kinky sex, blackmail, dope and booze abuse, and murder. It's all very nicely done. You know a review is gonna go downhill for the book when it’s a thriller but it begins with praising the author for world-building.

Private Investigator Archer is in LA to celebrate the New Year’s with a close friend and an old-fling-for-whom-he-still-has- a-thing for, Liberty Callahan. Liberty is an up-and-coming Hollywood actress and knows many influential people. While having dinner in a fancy restaurant, they meet a writer of a big production house, Elenor Lamb, who happens to socially know Callahan. When she finds out that Archer is a PI , she hires him as she believes her life is in danger. Archer is hesitant to accept the gig, but after receiving the go-ahead from his Bay Town boss, PI Willie Dash, he’s on the case in a big way.

Archer discovers a corpse in Lamb’s Malibu home. And she has disappeared. Are the dead man and Lamb connected? And as a stranger in town, where does Archer begin his investigation?

Since Lamb is an esteemed Hollywood screenwriter, Archer heads to the offices of the production company for Lamb’s latest film. There he encounters Cecily Ransome, a prestigious filmmaker, who agrees to post Archer’s fee to locate her colleague. The search leads Archer to the lush mansions of Hollywood, the sleazy bars of Chinatown, the gambling palaces of Vegas, and the remote shores of Lake Tahoe. His is a rambling journey, where everyone within Tinsel Town’s intimate circle has secrets to protect, making it nearly impossible for Archer to track down his missing client.

Baldacci’s characters are brilliant. They seem monotonous at first but as you read further you realize the amount of depth each of them carries. Four women in particular: Alice Jacoby, a talented set designer, sexy Gloria Mars, a producer’s wife, Mallory Green, a jaded Oscar-winning producer, and Bernadette Bonham, a neighbor and old friend of Lamb’s, could all be suspects. These ambitious ladies know more about Lamb, her past and present than they are letting on. There’s a bit of social commentary too, that some may like.

For me, for a thriller to work, I need some sort of emotional attachment to the victim. I felt nothing of the sort for Eleanor Lamb, I did not connect with the character. Also, for someone with a mediocre salary, Archer seemed to spend money almost left and right, this seemed a bit unrealistic to me. Now, I know it was the fifties, but airports seemed to give out personal information of passengers to seemingly any Tom, dick, or harry, whoever seemed to ask for it. This worked conveniently for the book. And for me a detective mystery to work, all information should have been presented to the reader before the climax. It seemed that new information seemed to come to light frequently.

As I said earlier there are several redeeming qualities of the book too. The world is fantastically portrayed. The characters are extremely well written and Archer and Callahan’s will they-won’t they keep the readers hooked.

Even though the thriller-mystery part of the book was meh! I will definitely be reading the previous and upcoming books of the series. I am hooked into Archer’s world now.

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