cover image A Gambling Man

A Gambling Man

David Baldacci. Grand Central, $29 (448p) ISBN 978-1-5387-1967-1

After a contrivance-filled opening, bestseller Baldacci’s entertaining sequel to 2019’s One Good Deed finishes strong. In 1949, WWII veteran and ex-con Aloysius Archer is headed for Bay Town, Calif., where he hopes to get a job with a PI firm, when he decides to stop in Reno, Nev. After refusing a stranger’s request to protect the man from his enemies, Archer wins big at roulette and befriends Liberty Callahan, a café dancer who hopes to become a Hollywood star. When Archer and Callahan stumble on three thugs assaulting the man in need of protection, Callahan shows off her firearms skill. Archer and Callahan decide to travel together, but more violence ensues before the pair reach Bay Town. There, Archer is hired by the PI firm, which has been retained by a mayoral candidate to thwart a blackmailer threatening to expose his extramarital affair. Multiple murders follow. Baldacci provides a nicely twisted motive for the homicides, though the prose can be purple (“Smoke curled off the end of the cigarillo and lifted to the sky like a fragment of a memory gone to Heaven”). Fans of classic L.A. noir will be satisfied. Agent: Aaron Priest, Aaron M. Priest Literary. (Apr.)