Dream Town (Aloysius Arthur #3) – David Baldacci

Dream Town by David Baldacci
Also by this author: Bullseye, Daylight, Mercy
Series: Archer #3
Published by Grand Central Publishing on April 19, 2022
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Mystery, Suspense
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Private investigator and World War II veteran Aloysius Archer heads to Los Angeles, the city where dreams are made and shattered, and is ensnared in a lethal case in this latest thriller in #1 New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci’s Nero Award-winning series.  
It’s the eve of 1953, and Aloysius Archer is in Los Angeles to ring in the New Year with an old friend, aspiring actress Liberty Callahan, when their evening is interrupted by an acquaintance of Callahan’s: Eleanor Lamb, a screenwriter in dire straits. After a series of increasingly chilling events—mysterious phone calls, the same blue car loitering outside her house, and a bloody knife left in her sink—Eleanor fears that her life is in danger, and she wants to hire Archer to look into the matter. Archer suspects that Eleanor knows more than she’s saying, but before he can officially take on her case, a dead body turns up inside of Eleanor’s home . . . and Eleanor herself disappears.  Missing client or not, Archer is dead set on finding both the murderer and Eleanor. With the help of Callahan and his partner Willie Dash, he launches an investigation that will take him from mob-ridden Las Vegas to the glamorous world of Hollywood to the darkest corners of Los Angeles—a city in which beautiful faces are attached to cutthroat schemers, where the cops can be more corrupt than the criminals . . . and where the powerful people responsible for his client’s disappearance will kill without a moment’s hesitation if they catch Archer on their trail. 

I don’t think I’ve ever had to drag myself to the end of a David Baldacci book. I have read every single Baldacci novel. Not all of them are good, but all of them have held my interest. Except this one. Part of it is Baldacci’s deviation from his norm. Aloysius Arthur is a unique character and the setting of 1950s California—and the slower-paced, more hardboiled detective story that results—is quite a change of pace from Baldacci’s normal fare. Neither One Good Deed nor A Gambling Man were my favorite Baldacci novels, but the unique characters and novel setting kept me hooked. Dream Town may have ended that.

It’s New Year’s Eve 1952 and Aloysius Arthur is establishing himself as PI while his erstwhile love interest Liberty Callahan is following her dream of making it big during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Unlike the previous books, Dream Town (as the title suggests) takes place right in the middle of Hollywood and features a missing screenwriter, a dead PI, and the cutthroat political intrigue of moviemaking. As Baldacci is always keen to establish a social message, the misogyny of Hollywood and the 1950s in general is on full display (our hero, aside, of course).

The plot manages to be both unnecessarily complicated and nonexistent as a slow pace never develops into anything else other than layer after layer of intrigue and twists for the sake of intrigue and twists. Baldacci does nothing positive to advance the relationship between Aloysius and Liberty and none of the new characters made any sort of impression. Maybe I would have fared better with the audiobook, as that’s a more passive way to consume a story, but between the slow pace and lackluster characters, Dream Town sent me to sleep more than once.