Sunday, April 19, 2015

Officer Elvis: Gary Gusick


Over a year ago I reviewed Gary Cusick's novel, The Last Clinic. That was the first book in the Darla Cavannah series, and the second book, Officer Elvis, will be published on April 21st.  I requested that book from NetGalley because I had enjoyed the character of Tommy Reylander, a police officer who was also an Elvis impersonator. Imagine my surprise when Tommy is the murder victim in this second novel.

I am using the full description from the publisher's site because it doesn't reveal too much and I think it accurately portrays the flavor and tone of the novel.
In the vein of Harlan Coben and Lisa Gardner, Gary Gusick takes readers on an explosive ride-along with Mississippi detective Darla Cavannah, a Yankee transplant making her name in the Deep South.

After performing at a local old-folks home, off-duty police officer and part-time Elvis impersonator Tommy Reylander smoothes out his pompadour, climbs into his pink Caddy, and gets all shook up—fatally so, when a bomb explodes. Whether he was killed for his police work or bad singing is a mystery that detective Darla Cavannah is determined to solve.

Though it’s been several years since Darla (reluctantly) partnered up with Tommy, she convinces her boss to let her lead the murder investigation. As the new regional director of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Shelby Mitchell can think of better uses for his star detective’s time, but not even the most hardened good ole boy can resist Darla’s smart, savvy persuasions. She soon embarks on a roller coaster ride through the world of Elvis tribute artists while tracking down one of the most bizarre serial killers in the history of the Magnolia State. Aiding her pursuit of the killer is recently reprimanded officer Rita Gibbons, fresh from the trailer park and described by Shelby as “half a licorice stick short in the manners department.” But Rita’s plenty smart, even when this case takes their suspicious minds in an entirely unexpected direction.
One of my problems with the first novel in the series was that the author seemed to be poking fun at a lot of Southern behaviors and traditions. Yet in the end I decided it must be a good-natured look at the South because the author was from Jackson, Mississippi.

From a review by a Southern blogger:
Like all things Elvis, this book is a bit of a guilty pleasure for Southern readers, as there is so much Southern culture incorporated into the story (the whole funeral description was a hoot and pretty much was spot on for any Southern funeral for instance).
From a review at Book Nympho:
Gusick again manages to capture the endearing aspects of the Southern locale, from the vernacular to the politics and social customs of the community. The case is interesting, taking some interesting turns while immersed in the fandom of Elvis Presley and the world of his impersonators.
I found the plot in the The Last Clinic more interesting and more believable. In that novel, the Reverend Jimmy Aldridge is killed while demonstrating in front of an abortion clinic. The plot of Officer Elvis is not as interesting or believable, but it is more fun and overall the book is more humorous. So I guess it depends on what you are looking for. A definite plus in this novel is that the main characters are strong women and they don't play second fiddle to a male character.

This is not my usual type of mystery, but I did find it interesting reading this story set in Mississippi and it held my interest throughout. One reviewer compared this mystery to the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. I can see the similarity and I did enjoy the first few of those, so if readers have enjoyed that series, they may want to try this one. The book currently seems to be available only in e-book format.

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Publisher:   Alibi, 2015
Length:      198 pages
Format:      e-book
Series:       Darla Cavannah, #2
Setting:      Mississippi
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      Provided by the publisher for review.

12 comments:

  1. Sounds like an interesting change from the usual cozy mysteries I read. Always like a bit of humor thrown in. Good review.
    Ann

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    1. Thanks, Ann. It isn't a cozy, but it is not graphically violent either.

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  2. That's such an interesting plot move for the author to take, Tracy! To have a character 'star' in one novel and be killed off in the next. And somehow the idea of a cop who's also an Elvis impersonator is innovative! Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. Well, Tommy is not exactly a star in the earlier book, but he does have a prominent role. I would not have minded if his character had continued. It was interesting.

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  3. I like the sound of both of these, but probably don't have time......or the money!

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    1. Col, I know what you mean about the money. Book buying expenses can mount up.

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  4. Must say, from your review, this is probably not somethign I might go for - or at least I'd got for the first one to start with! Thanks Tracy.

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    1. The first is better, Sergio, but this one has its charms for someone who has roots in the South. Although I really think I heard more about Elvis and Elvis impersonators after I left the South (early 70's) than before.

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  5. This sounds very entertaining Tracy, and the earlier one too - I'm definitely making a note of this...

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    1. I do not remember specifically if there are clothes descriptions, but I think there must be, with all the Elvis impersonators. I am thinking you might enjoy these. Not as polished a mystery as some I read, and thrillerish, but a decent picture of one side of Southern life. I swear some of the scenes that seem outrageous are really pretty true to life.

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  6. Tracy, I have read traditional westerns including mining stories set in the American South and have some idea about why such books come under scrutiny, especially when it comes to how the South is portrayed. I think by and large writers have been sympathetic. I'll have to read about the South in other genres like this one, for instance.

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    1. Prashant, the South has its problems, as do most areas of the country. But I think this book is taking an affectionate look at the area and the people.

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