Lullaby Town

Lullaby Town_RobertCrais_425090

WHEN KEEPING ONE’S WORD MEANS KEEPING ONE’S LIFE

4 STARS

Peter Alan Nelson wants to find his ex-wife and his child. As he explains to Elvis Cole, when they divorced, she asked for nothing. She just left and he hasn’t seen or heard from her in ten years. However, as he brags to Cole, his ex-wife surely must have heard about him and seen him in the media since he is currently the third largest grossing film director in Hollywood and dubbed worldwide as the King of adventure films.

According to Peter, Karen Shipley Nelson was barely twenty when she and Peter divorced. According to her agency photos, she was an attractive girl. According to the outtakes of an audition tape Cole viewed, she was a giggling simpleton with the acting skills of a cardboard box. And according to every source Cole has, Karen Nelson is nowhere near LA.

Three days after being hired, Cole locates her 3000 miles away in Connecticut. But Karen Nelson is no longer the stereotypical Valley Girl. She is poised, confident, well-dressed, has a college degree and a real estate license, and is a vice president and manager of the town bank. She is also Karen Lloyd.

Cole quietly and steadfastly confronts Karen with a picture and facts relating to her actual identity and past. Karen quietly and steadfastly denies being that person. However, her body language clearly tells an opposing tale. Regardless of her denials, Cole has done his job; he has found Karen Nelson. All that is left to do is to fly back to LA in the morning and give Peter Alan Nelson the facts of her whereabouts.

Later that evening, as Cole approaches his motel room, two thugs with heavy Bronx-style accents accost him from a stairwell. With an iron pipe and beefy fists to back them up, the thugs attempt to persuade Cole to leave town permanently. Elvis quickly takes the two down, but before he can get answers to questions about Karen Lloyd, he is struck hard behind his ear. Oops, third thug!

Pulling himself up out of the gravel, groaning from the kicks and the beating he received, Cole knows that he is not flying back to LA in the morning. Karen Lloyd has made this personal. Game on!

Of course, as Cole patiently sniffs out, Karen Lloyd is not really the problem. Charlie DeLuca, son of the high-ranking, NYC mafia capo, Sal DeLuca, is the problem. Eight years ago, Charlie and Sal happened upon a waitress struggling to raise her toddler son and going to college part time. Several weeks later, Sal told Karen about a job opening at a bank. She got the job as a teller and got her life back on track.

Then Karen was asked to pay back the favor. Sal wanted her to open an account for him, deposit his funds and then transfer those funds to an offshore account, all without alerting the Feds. Naïve to the nth degree and grateful for what Sal had done to help her, Karen agreed. But it didn’t take too many of these “favors” for Karen to wise up to the fact that she was laundering funds, that Sal was Mafia, and that she was in his pocket.

In the meantime, Karen totally re-invented herself compared to those days as a teenager married to Nelson. Once she figured out Sal’s true intentions, she refused all payment from him for her deeds. She has given the initial funds he paid her all those years ago to charity and has kept records of every transaction she has done for the DeLucas since she figured out their illegality. Upon learning these facts, Cole decides to help Karen escape the mob’s grasp and calls in Joe Pike as backup.

Unfortunately for Cole, Pike and Karen, the egocentric and narcissistic Nelson is used to people rushing to fulfill his every whim. Thus, he doesn’t understand why Cole isn’t rushing to do what he wants done the way he wants it done. So Nelson hires a second detective to follow Cole. Elvis makes the tail, but the other PI has already seen Cole and Karen together and sent Karen’s location back to Nelson. Cole is just barely able to intercept a furious and self-centered Nelson before he can blindside Karen, turn his child’s world inside out and run into DeLuca.

At this point, the plot that Crais has been methodically building shifts from a story about finding a person who doesn’t want to be found into a terror-filled tale of survival. First, Karen tells Charlie DeLuca that she is finished without consulting with Cole first about the soundness of that idea. Secondly, Nelson is stupid enough and egotistical enough to think that his reputation and his demands that Karen be released mean a wit to DeLuca. And these actions leave nothing between them and death but Cole and Pike.

Crais has written a story that builds slowly and then suddenly bursts into a page-turner. Cole’s smart-alecky speech fades away, replaced by cold, intense verbal logistics. Pike’s mercenary skills come full forward against a certifiably insane enemy and his soldiers. And Peter Alan Nelson, the acclaimed King of Adventure Films, learns just exactly what it means to be Indiana Jones in a pit full of snakes.

Only the third in a series that currently contains over 15 novels featuring either Cole or Pike as the main protagonist, this book has one feature different from the first two – it has a hook that could lead to a future novel. It is possible that we have not seen the last of the DeLucas.

Cover Art From Goodreads

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