You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Kills You: A Rat Pack Mystery
by Robert J. Randisi
Cover Artist: Bill Garland
Review by Don Metzler
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312376437
Date: 15 September 2009 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
“Eddie,” Marilyn said, in that little girl voice, “I’m being watched -- followed.”The year is 1962, and Las Vegas casino pit boss Eddie G has been asked, by Dean Martin no less, to look into some suspicious goings-on that have been troubling actress Marilyn Monroe. On several occasions in the past, the inimitable Eddie G has been known to pal around with Dean, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and the rest of the famed Rat Pack. And in more than one instance Eddie has, through his own brand of discreet inquiry, been able to help one or another of the Pack out of a jam.
But, asked to come to the aid of Marilyn Monroe, even Eddie G feels he may be out of his depth. When Eddie meets Marilyn in person for the first time, however, she is so genuine, and so genuinely in need, he finds he cannot say “No.” Unfortunately, it is not immediately clear to Eddie just what he may be able to do to help her. For one thing, the whole business of being followed by persons unknown is very likely nothing more than a figment of Marilyn’s imagination. But Eddie has promised to do something, and Eddie never makes a promise that he does not intend to keep.
He begins by hiring a Las Vegas P.I. of his acquaintance to follow Miss Monroe on her return flight to Los Angeles. The idea is to maintain a discreet distance and watch for anyone else who may possibly be following Marilyn. But soon after his arrival in LA, the P.I. vanishes from the face of the earth. Suddenly this business of unknown stalkers shadowing Marilyn Monroe has become very real, and also very personal. In the company of another friend and sometimes colleague, Brooklyn strong-arm Big Jerry, Eddie climbs into the Caddy and heads for Los Angeles. Before long, Eddie has unwittingly opened a can of worms that will eventually lead him to the highest echelons of power in the U.S. government.
You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Kills You is another fast-paced, fun-to-read entry in Robert Randisi’s Rat Pack Mystery series. A master of his craft, Randisi knows how to hook the reader on page one, and keep the reader hooked until the final scene has played out. The combination of endearing characters, entertaining backdrops, good mystery, and surprising twists of plot make for a big winner. The descriptions of early 1960s Las Vegas have the authentic feel that could only come from someone who was intimately familiar with the time and place. The liberal use of appearances by Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra might have been a trap for a lesser author, but Randisi handles the device with the same level of skill and respect that characterizes Stuart Kaminsky’s use of historical figures in his Toby Peters series. The pacing is so up-tempo that at times it feels almost abrupt, but it ably serves the purpose of moving the story forward without allowing the reader’s mind to wander.
Randisi’s sympathetic depiction of Marilyn Monroe is priceless. He draws her character not as a spoiled sex symbol, but as a scared, insecure little girl trapped in a grown-up woman’s body. During the scenes in which Eddie G is subtly manipulated by Marilyn, Eddie is aware of the manipulation, but he is perceptive enough to realize that it is not through conscious guile on her part, but rather through naivete and ingenuousness.
You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Kills You will be great fun for all mystery readers, but especially for the reader who is old enough to remember the early 1960s, Sinatra and Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop, and the other members of the so-called Rat Pack. It is great fun even though the ending may leave the reader with a touch of melancholy, because of course we already know how it all ended for Marilyn just a few months later.