Formats available: ebook
Series: Darla Cavannah #2
Length: 202 pages
Publisher: Random House Alibi
Date Released: April 21, 2015
Purchasing Info: Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
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.
This seems to be a week where everything I read turned out to be in the middle of a series – and I hadn’t figured that out beforehand.
So like several of my early reviews this week, even though Officer Elvis is the second book of Darla Cavannah, I can attest that it is not only possible to read this without having read the first (The Last Clinic), it is a whole lot of fun to read this one, with or without having read the first one.
Officer Elvis is an absolute hoot from beginning to end. Not that there isn’t a very serious series of murders to investigate, but the surrounding events are just way too much fun.
There are at least 85,000 Elvis impersonators (really) in the world, and someone seems determined to cut that number down. In other words, there’s a serial killer targeting Elvis impersonators, and Lieutenant Darla Cavannah of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has caught the case.
She doesn’t start out thinking this is a serial killer cases. She starts out investigating the death of one of her former police partners. Tommy Reylander may have been one of the worst Elvis impersonators ever in the history of Elvis impersonators, but he was also a cop. Not terrible good at that, either, but still a cop.
In Jackson Mississippi, just like everywhere else, cops take the death of other cops very seriously, no matter how strange or unusual the circumstances of that death might be. Tommy died when his pink Cadillac Elvismobile exploded.
Tommy even dressed his girlfriend like Priscilla Presley, and the lookalike “Cill” is one of the first suspects – except that Tommy had almost no assets. He wasn’t even a good enough cop to have pissed off very many criminals, although there are a few.
But when Darla discovers a string of Elvis impersonator murders, everyone in the office is forced to conclude that someone wants Elvis to permanently leave all the buildings.
Some of the murders are inherently tragic, especially the one that misses its intended victim. Almost all of the circumstances contain an element of Elvis trivia and a whole lot of gallows humor.
The string of crimes is pointing directly to the upcoming Ultimate Elvis competition in nearby Tupelo Mississippi, Elvis’ birthplace. As all the contestants (and potential victims) gather for the high point of their year, one man is determined to take back what he believes is rightfully his. He just has to get Elvis back to Graceland to carry out his plan.
It’s up to Darla and her new partner, disgraced detective and Elvis fan Rita Gibbons, to let just enough, and not too much, of this last tribute play itself out.
Be prepared to be all shook up by the ending.
Escape Rating B+: This was way too much fun. I laughed through all of the early set up of the story, and just couldn’t stop. There are too many joke possibilities in the idea that this many people are seriously, or not so seriously, pretending to be Elvis. Particularly all the variations. The yodeling Elvis was probably my favorite, although I’m very happy not to have to listen to him.
But underneath the humor there is a very serious investigation of a serial killer – and one who is both organized in the way that he is committing the crimes, and psychotic in his motivations.
At the same time we have a dive into this rather strange offshoot of the entertainment industry – the world of the Elvis Tribute Artists. Some people take it seriously, some people don’t, but it looks like the Dixie Mob has its dirty fingers in this particular pie – just as it does in other parts of the entertainment industry.
What Darla can’t figure out is why the Dixie Mob and two of her own local criminal kingpins cared two hoots about Tommy Reylander. He may have been a cop, but he was seriously bad at it. She can’t help worrying at the puzzle of why the local meth kingpin, the local sleazy club owner, and the head of the Elvis Tribute Artists association and his hired goons had any interest in Tommy in the first place. If he was killed as part of the string of Elvii murders, why do these villains care?
And if he wasn’t, what did these crime lords have in common with Tommy, who wasn’t even smart enough, or venal enough, to be on the take?
Darla is determined to find all the answers, and as a viewpoint character she is fascinating to follow. She’s a terrific cop, but it’s more than that. As a Yankee in the Deep South, she has an outsider’s perspective on all the players, but as someone who has lived in Mississippi for ten years, even though she is still not accepted in a lot of ways, she has figured out how things (and people) work. That she is not involved with any of the various families and factions makes her a good person to see through all the connections and assumptions.
She’s smart, and she’s tough when she needs to be, but she has developed her own set of friends and colleagues who help her navigate a place where she will always be on the periphery. And it works for her and the reader.
Darla’s first adventure is The Last Clinic, where she investigates and falls for her husband. I can’t wait to see how she got started.
This tour includes a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $25 eGift card to the eBook Retailer of the winner’s choice + an eBook copy of OFFICER ELVIS.