This eleventh entry in Bob Randisi's highly entertaining “Rat Pack” mystery series is another solid job. It will hook you right from the get-go, swirl you into the high-living, fast-paced world of mid-1960s Las Vegas (as well as, this time around, Miami Beach) and propel you along as fast as you can turn the pages or thumb the tab of your e-reader.
Once again you'll be making the rounds with Eddie “Eddie G” Gianelli, former pit boss but now unofficial fixer/troubleshooter for the Sands Casino. Moreover, Eddie has become pals with the Rat Pack crew—in particular, Chairman of the Board Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin—due to past problems he has helped discreetly “handle” for them and some of their showbiz friends.
Such is the case once more when Sinatra invites Eddie to join him on a trip to Miami Beach where he'll be playing a brief engagement at the Fontanebleu. Dino will be in town too, making an appearance on Jackie Gleason's TV show that does its taping in Miami Beach. Because it is Sinatra making the request, Eddie's boss at the Sands has no qualms about grating him some time off for a little “vacation” that Eddie is certainly eager for himself.
Once in Miami Beach, however, Frank takes Eddie to meet “the Great One” himself, Jackie Gleason. This introduction, it turns out, is really a chance for Gleason to size up Eddie and then, liking what he sees, solicit his special services—discreetly looking into a problem the Great One is having. After all, Frank and Dino have lauded Eddie as “the guy” ... the guy who can be counted on to handle such things.
So, wanting to neither disappoint or possibly anger Frank, who obviously set up the whole thing under the guise of a “vacation, Eddie agrees to see what he can do. It starts out simply enough: Some creep seems to be stalking Jackie's girlfriend, Marilyn Taylor (sister of the famous June Taylor, who choreographs the intricate dance performances on Gleason's show); Eddie is tasked with finding out who he is, what he's up to, and stopping him from continuing. From there, things quickly start to turn un-simple. The action shifts back and forth between Vegas and Miami and along the way Eddie will run up against murder, betrayal, police corruption, mysticism, and threats to his life including becoming the apparent target of a knife-wielding “ghost” hit man no one can find a trace of except for the stabbing victims he leaves behind.
All of this is told in Randisi's lean, dialogue-driven narrative style that does a fine job of capturing the era and the settings without layering on too many details just to show he's done his research. Which, make no mistake, he has done; if he says, for example, that Sinatra was playing a gig in Miami on a certain date – he was there. The nasty deeds and shady characters and plot twists woven in and around the realities, that of course is Bob's craft and imagination at work.
Eddie G makes a fine protagonist. Likable, engaging, tough when he has to be, smart enough to know his limitations. When he calls on a couple of pals to assist him—mob strongarm Jerry Epstein and Vegas PI Danny Bardini—the banter and friendship between them seems real and well balanced. This is especially true with Jerry, and some of their exchanges, in particular, made me laugh out loud.
If you want a slick, fast-moving murder mystery with colorful settings and characters, plot twists galore, all told in a lean, clear narrative, you don't need to look any further than right here.