Top critical review
Old school 1950's P.I. mystery that is a bit slow and overly complicated, 3.5 stars
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 30, 2022
In this third installment of David Baldacci’s Archer series we find the novice P.I. and WWII veteran Aloysius Archer in 1953 Hollywood embroiled in a complex case. On New Year’s Eve while at a party with his gal pal, up and coming actress Liberty Callahan, Archer is approached by an acquaintance of Liberty’s seeking his help. Screenwriter Eleanor Lamb fears her life is in danger and wants to hire Archer to investigate some worrisome recent events and he agrees. The next day when he goes to see Lamb to sign a contract and get his retainer she is missing and there’s the body of dead man in her house. Despite not officially being on the case Archer presses on anyway and the closer he gets to the truth he finds it puts him, Liberty, and partner Willie Dash in ever increasing peril. Crooked movie producers, mobbed up club owners, drug smugglers, and human traffickers will deceive or attempt to kill Archer as he tries to find the missing Eleanor Lamb before it is too late.
If you enjoy noir fiction set in this time period there is a lot to like with the Archer series. I felt in this book he was a bit too much of a Boy Scout (at least one character observes the same) and he gives one or two hokey speeches; I prefer my 1950’s P.I.’s to be a bit more hardboiled. I like the character of Liberty Callahan but in “Dream Town” her role is diminished which was unfortunate and her future with Archer is in question. It felt to me that Baldacci was straining to make the plot of this novel overly intricate with multiple interconnected villains involved in some great conspiracy. There was not a great deal of action and while well written, the story overall was kind of boring; I kept going because I wanted to see how it all ended but was kind of happy when it was over.
I would rank “Dream Town” third best out of the three titles in this franchise. The ending sees Archer deciding to set up his own P.I. office in L.A. leaving Bay Town and Willie Dash’s agency behind which opens up endless possibilities. Although I’m a bit disappointed with this book I would definitely read another Archer novel and am optimistic that Mr. Baldacci has the talent to keep improving this series.