cover image The Wizard of La-La Land

The Wizard of La-La Land

Robert Campbell, R. Wright Campbell. Pocket Books, $20 (278pp) ISBN 978-0-671-70321-9

Campbell's fast-moving and well-written new Whistler novel, fourth in the series, reunites the crew at Gentry's on Hollywood and Vine and dredges up painful memories for Whistler's friend Isaac Canaan, the cop who is rumored never to sleep. Ten years ago, Canaan's niece was brutally murdered. Now a dying AIDS victim named Kenny Gotch claims to know who killed her-but he passes away before he can tell anybody. When Whistler starts turning over the rocks in Gotch's past, he uncovers enough that's bad to put himself and the revenge-seeking Canaan in danger-especially when it becomes clear that Gotch was murdered. The Whistler novels always offer a Runyonesque journey into the seamier side of modern L.A., and this particular foray features, along with the usual ``gazooneys'' and ``twangy boys,'' an array of quirky characters ranging from the series regulars to eccentric hospice nurse Mary Bucket, with whom Whistler has a budding romance. Satanism rears its devilish head as well. The basic plot is simple, but Campbell stretches it out nicely with colorful dialogue, a neatly intertwined series of subplots and sharp narration. Campbell's-and Whistler's-many fans won't be disappointed. (Dec.)