Lullaby Town

Robert Crais

Robert Crais’ private investigator Elvis Cole and his friend Joe Pike make their third outing in Lullaby Town. Cole is one of the Hound's greatest crime fighters

 

Peter Alan Nelsen is a super-successful movie director who is used to getting what he wants. And what he wants is to find the wife and infant child he dumped on the road to fame. It's the kind of case that Cole could handle in his sleep, except that when Cole actually finds Nelsen's ex-wife, everything takes on nightmarish proportions - a nightmare which involves Cole with a nasty New York mob family and a psychokiller who is the son of the godfather. When the unpredictable Nelsen charges in, an explosive situation blows sky-high.

The At first, neither likes the other very much; Nelson is just the kind of “I-am-a-famous-director-and-you’ll-do-what-I-say” type that Cole dislikes. Cole is a wiseacre who doesn’t allow Nelson to intimidate him. But once he hears Nelson’s story, Cole begins to have some sympathy. For his part, Nelson knows of Cole’s reputation of being good at what he does. So the two come to an agreement and Cole begins asking questions. He also calls his partner, gun-shop owner Joe Pike, and lets him know about the case. It’s not very long before Cole discovers that Karen Shipley Nelson has left Southern California and moved to the small town of Chelam, Connecticut. So he travels there and before very long, he finds out where she’s living. At first, she denies everything, but Cole is sure she’s lying, so he follows her.That’s when Cole realises that he’s in deeper than he thought, as the saying goes. Karen Nelson seems to be mixed up with some very nasty people, two of whom try to “convince” Cole to leave the case alone and stay away. It’s not long before Cole discovers that the person who sent the “visitors” to him is Charlie DeLuca, scion of a New York Mafia family. When he confronts Karen Nelson with what he’s found, she finally admits that she’s the woman Cole’s been searching for, but she’s now got bigger problems than what to do about her former husband. It turns out that when she came to Connecticut, she unwittingly became a Mafia “tool” for laundering money (she’s a bank vice-president). Now she wants to break free from the Mafia, but she knows the risks if she tries to do that. Cole agrees to help her if she’ll agree to meet with her former husband.Pike joins Cole in Connecticut and together they face two challenges: find a way to help Karen Nelson free herself from the DeLuca family and deal with re-uniting Peter Alan Nelson with his son. Neither case proves to be an easy one, but the two sleuths are no slouches themselves.One of the interesting elements that holds this story together is the look we get at the way private investigators find out information.

The partnership between Cole and Pike is an important thread throughout the novel. The two have distinct personalities and different skill sets, but it’s very clear that they depend on each other and trust each other implicitly. Their characters are interesting, too. Cole, for instance, has a wry sense of humour and sometimes, a wisecracking manner. But he’s also quite skilled at finding things out. He practices tae kwan do and yoga and shares his home with a feral cat. Pike (at least in this novel), is a more enigmatic character. He’s a war veteran, a gun shop owner and is fond of carrying several weapons with him. He’s a man of very, very few words and you might think he’s the “shoot-first-ask-questions-later” type. But he’s not. He’s got a special bond with animals, he’s actually more reflective than it might appear, and he’s both intelligent and shrewd. These sleuths’ personalities and partnership add real leaven to this story. Many of the other characters are also well-drawn.

There’s a solid sense of humour woven throughout the novel, too. It’s told from Cole’s point of view, and his way of seeing the world comes through. Cole’s sense of humour adds a light but not frivolous touch to the story.The story moves quickly, and there’s plenty of action and suspense. But there’s solid characterisation and some reflection, too; this isn’t a superficial “chase-scenes-only” novel.

A P.I. novel with a strong detective partnership, some refreshing characters and a solid story, 

Review by Margot Kinberg, Confessions of a Mystery Writer

About Robert Crais:

Robert Crais is the author of the best-selling Elvis Cole novels. A native of Louisiana, he grew up on the banks of the Mississippi River in a blue collar family of oil refinery workers and police officers. He purchased a secondhand paperback of Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister when he was fifteen, which inspired his lifelong love of writing, Los Angeles, and the literature of crime fiction. Other literary influences include Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, Robert B. Parker, and John Steinbeck.After years of amateur film-making and writing short fiction, he journeyed to Hollywood in 1976 where he quickly found work writing scripts for such major television series as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, and Miami Vice, as well as numerous series pilots and Movies-of-the-Week for the major networks.Upon the death of his father in 1985, Crais was inspired to create Elvis Cole, using elements of his own life as the basis of the story. The resulting novel, The Monkey’s Raincoat, won the Anthony and Macavity Awards and was nominated for the Edgar Award. 

The novel begins when Cole gets a ‘phone call from Pat Kyle, a successful casting director and a former client. Kyle tells him that she’s casting a movie for superstar director Peter Alan Nelson, and that Nelson’s film company is interested in talking to Cole. Then Kyle shares Nelson’s story. Years earlier, Nelson had been married to a woman named Karen Shipley; they had a son named Toby. The marriage broke up because Nelson didn’t want family and child-raising responsibilities. Then, Karen disappeared, taking Toby with her. Now, Nelson wants to find his family again, especially his son. Cole agrees to discuss the case with his potential client and visits Peter Alan Nelson.