Officer Elvis: A Darla Cavannah Mystery

Officer Elvis: A Darla Cavannah Mystery

by Gary Gusick

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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.

Praise for Officer Elvis
“With its comical Down South style and its wide variety of sequined, pompadoured characters, Officer Elvis is an intriguing mystery with more than its share of quirks. Even if you’re not a fan of the King, you’re sure to get plenty of laughs out of this rockin’ and rollin’ whodunit.”—Kristin Dreyer Kramer, NPR’s Shelf Discovery
“An absolute hoot from beginning to end . . . Be prepared to be all shook up by the ending.”—Reading Reality
“If you are a fan of Elvis, murder mysteries and could use a few good laughs at the same time, pick up this book and give it a read. You won’t be sorry.”—Open Book Society
“The region and societal habits are so present, the setting is like an additional character to the story. I stayed up an hour past my self-imposed bedtime to read more.”—Lilac Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553390285
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/21/2015
Series: Darla Cavannah , #2
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 202
Sales rank: 335,568
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Gary Gusick is the author of The Last Clinic. A former advertising executive with more than thirty years experience as a copywriter and creative director, Gusick has won numerous national and international awards for creative excellence in advertising.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
The Chariot

The poster at the entrance of the multipurpose room at the Clarion Hills Senior Residence Center displayed a full-length photo of a portly man in his late thirties. His dark hair was slicked into a pompadour, with the sides combed back. The look was completed with four-inch razor-cut muttonchops that covered most of his round face. He was dressed in a white silk jumpsuit and cape, studded with red, blue, and yellow rhinestones in a wave pattern.
The words officer elvis tonight appeared above the photo, hand stenciled in gold letters.

Standing backstage, Tommy Reylander pulled the entertainment director, Otis Dupree, close to him and whispered in the man’s ear, using his tough-guy voice: “For the record, it ain’t Officer Elvis. Officer is what you call somebody who rides in a patrol car and wears a uniform, giving out traffic tickets, and pinching your drunk drivers; in other words, a low-level law enforcement type. That ain’t me. I’ve been a detective with the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department for four years now. I earned that designation by putting my life on the line for the state of Mississippi. I deserve to be recognized for my accomplishment.” It had taken Tommy Reylander ten long years to make the grade of detective. Okay, it was the slowest ascent in the history of the department. But why add that part? Tommy looked Otis in the eye. “From now on, it’s Detective Elvis. Understood?” Tommy palmed him an Abraham to seal the deal.

Otis looked down at the bill. “Whatever,” he said, seeing it was a fiver, then frowning like he had been expecting more.

Tommy took his place behind the curtain as Otis switched on the backstage mic. “And now,” Otis’s voice boomed over the loudspeaker, “the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Live on our stage, from the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department, Tommy ‘Detective Elvis’ Reylander!”

Tommy reached up and pulled a spit curl down over his forehead, adjusted the Spanx he wore under the jumpsuit for maximum slimming effect, and stepped from behind the curtain.

The audience, all sixty-five of them, cheered and hooted like it was the King of Rock and Roll himself. One silver-haired lady let loose a wolf whistle.

Tommy snarled his upper lip and said the line he knew they were waiting to hear. “Thank you. Thank you very much.”

That set off a second round of applause. When it had swelled to a crescendo, Tommy launched into his opening number, “All Shook Up.” The accompanying music was fed from his iMac, operated by an orderly that Tommy had to pay ten dollars from his paltry take.

Feeling every inch of his Elvisness, Tommy bounced and gyrated the entire song, holding and caressing the mic like it was the woman of his dreams. He finished with a fist pump for punctuation.

The residents, the ones who weren’t wheelchair-bound, jumped to their feet and cheered like it was the midnight show at the MGM Grand.

Tommy looked around the room, making eye contact here and there, muttering thank you, winking and blowing kisses. An elderly woman in the back row had fainted. Or maybe she’d nodded off. In nursing homes it was kind of hard to tell.

Otis had told him to do just the one set—eight numbers, forty minutes. “That’s about as much excitement as the residents can handle in one night,” he said.

Tommy knew the drill. Almost all of his gigs were at senior places—retirement communities, senior centers, nursing homes. The plus-sixties were his fan base. Tommy always made a point of finishing up before eight thirty, out of respect for his audience’s need for an early lights-out.

He usually came dressed in a jumpsuit and cape, like the older Vegas-style Elvis. The musical selection, though, was mostly Elvis’s early hits—a mix of the hot and sexy stuff—“Hound Dog,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” with some of the big ballad hits, like “Love Me Tender” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight.” He threw in “God Bless America” next to last—donning an Elvis army cap and marching in place like a soldier. This was for the men in the audience, many of them vets themselves—’Nam, Korea, and now and then a World War II vet.
Just before the final number, Tommy had his girlfriend stand up. Her real name was Edwina, but Tommy called her Cill. She was seated down front, all dolled up in a 1962 yellow formal outfit Tommy had picked out for her at the Here Today vintage clothing shop on Sather Street in Jackson. To round out the look, he had Loraine’s Beauty Shop bouffant her dark hair—just like Priscilla wore it when she and Elvis were dating during Elvis’s army days in Germany.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Tommy said, using his deepest baritone speaking voice, “this here beautiful young woman standing down front is the queen of my heart—tell me, is she the spitting image of Priscilla?” Man, did that get the applause.

Cill remained standing, gazing up adoringly at Tommy through his closing ballad, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” Just like always, at the end of the song, Tommy dropped to one knee and blew Cill a kiss. Looking around the room Tommy saw several of the old women tearing up. Young love—or perhaps, younger love—always got to the old biddies.

After the show Tommy and Cill hung around in the lobby while he signed autographs. Like always, Cill joked with a couple of the old girls, saying, “You can look, sister, but you better not touch,” and “Don’t worry, honey, he’s already taken,” and “I hope that isn’t a room key you’re handing him, young lady.”

When the final autograph seeker had been satisfied, Tommy walked out the front door with Cill on his arm, making a show of it, like it was Elvis escorting Priscilla to her high school prom. They paused at the top of the steps, just the way Tommy had it worked out. Both of them turned back and waved their goodbyes to the residents. He could tell it would be a cherished moment for the old folks.

“Standing up there tonight, you looked just like him,” said Cill. “’Course you always do.”

Cill was a good one for saying nice things, the way a woman is supposed to about her man. Naturally Tommy knew that, try as he might, he didn’t look as much like Elvis as some of the other tribute artists, especially the younger ones. But in his heart, his soul, down deep where it counted—for those moments onstage, he was Elvis.

“Would the Queen care to accompany the King to his chariot?” Tommy asked.

Cill reached over and adjusted his collar, which was starting to drop from the weight of all the rhinestones.

“Maybe the Queen should wait here and the King can come and fetch her,” said Cill. “That way everybody can see us ride off into the night in the Elvis-mobile.”

“Great idea,” said Tommy. “I’ll put the top down—give my fans a chance to appreciate the rolled and tucked.”

Might as well. The white Naugahyde interior had set him back a cool three thousand dollars to install. It was the same type of rolled and tucked Naugahyde Elvis had on his pink Caddy. Or that’s what the guy who installed it had said.

Tommy walked across to the gravel parking lot a little unsteady in his white ostrich-skin high-tops, hoping he wouldn’t fall and make a fool out of himself, or worse, soil his costume. The damn thing cost a small fortune to dry-clean. It wasn’t easy being Elvis on a detective’s salary.

His thoughts turned to Cill. He’d finally found a woman who actually got him, who he was. He’d made his mind that he was going to propose to her as soon as he saved enough money for a ring. In the meantime, he’d set up everything else, put all the appropriate paperwork in place.

Reaching the Caddy, he unlocked the door on the driver’s side, opened it, leaned in, reached up, and unfastened the hinge that secured the black canvas top in place. He gave the top a little nudge to help it fold accordion-like into its compartment behind the backseat. He got in the driver’s seat, turned on the ignition but without starting the engine, and rolled down all four windows. Getting out, he opened the trunk, removed the pink leather cover, closed the trunk, and carefully buttoned the cover over the area that housed the retractable top.

He stood back and looked at her for a moment. Even in the dim light of the parking lot, the Elvis-mobile was a thing of beauty—a vehicle worthy for a king and his queen.

He opened the driver’s side door, stepped inside, eased into the seat, turned on the engine, and at the same instant gunned the motor, just to hear his baby roar.

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Officer Elvis: A Darla Cavannah Mystery 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I laughed till tears were streaming down! When I got to the quip about Scarlet, I woke the whole house up. I live in a small town in Mississippi and I swear I know some of these characters. You will love this book no matter where you're from. Now, I have to start his next book, can't wait.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BarbiemacBM More than 1 year ago
Actually a 3 1/2 to 4. Good book with enjoyable characters and good story line. Fun read.
walc More than 1 year ago
BarbaraLyn More than 1 year ago
This is a murder mystery about Elvis tribute artists and is set in Mississippi.  What a combination!  According to the author, there are more than 85,000 such people. Darla Cavannah’s former partner and Elvis tribute artist has been murder.  She is leading the investigation for the MBI (Mississippi Bureau of Investigation).  Darla is teamed up with an officer, Rita Gibbons, who has been recently reprimanded.  Will the two of them be able to work as a team to resolve the murder? With a cast of characters, and I mean that in every sense of the word, you will need to stay alert to keep the who’s who straight.  The author uses good old southern food, trailer park mentality (which proves to be smarter than most people give credit for) and good police work to tell his story. You are taken inside Graceland and to a memorabilia shop that has overtones of a hoarder with all the Elvis items you would ever want and an owner who talks non-stop about Elvis. But is this just about the first murder or is there more to the story?  To find that out, you will have to read the book.
MaraBlaise More than 1 year ago
After a performance at old folks home, off duty police officer and part-time Elvis impersonator Tommy Reylander climbs into his pink Cadillac and is promptly blown to smithereens. Detective Darla Cavannah, who used to work with Tommy years ago, is determent to find his killer. Now she must go investigate all Tommy’s enemies. But when more Elvis impersonators is starting to die must Darla re-valuate the while case, is there someone out there who just do not like the King of Rock and Roll, or have something against Elvis impersonators? This cozy mystery book was actually a lot of fun to read. I liked Darla Cavannah, she’s a tough chick and she made a great team with Rita Gibbons, who is back out in the field after being reprimanded for crashing a department SUV during a chase. Rita is an Elvis fan and that was handy on this case on the case to have. Also, she is a funny character and Darla & Rita work great together. The case in itself was OK; I wasn’t completely taking in by it. Don’t take it wrong, I enjoyed reading the book and I would very much read more in this series. But it was a very lighthearted book and I prefer my crime novels to be a mix of light and dark or just dark. This felt a bit too whimsical for my taste. But it is a perfect book to read when you need something lighthearted in your life. But I must admit I was a bit surprised when it came to the killers identity, I don’t want to give the story away, but who he was supposed to be was a bit of surprise, especially since I don’t know much about the fellow in question he thought he was. Confusing? Yeah, but this is part of the plot and I just don’t want to give it away. So this book gets 3.5 stars. I actually changed the rating writing this review, gave it a half star more because I did enjoy the book!
seayomama More than 1 year ago
That was absolutely ridiculous…and just in the nick o’ time! Many thanks to Random House Alibi and Net Galley for the DRC. This second installment of the Darla Cavannah mystery series reads just fine as a stand-alone novel. I like to read several books at a time, and it was getting a little dark out there. The Blitzkrieg had broken out in the master bathroom, with Hitler’s troops having overrun Belgium and Poland and on into France. On my e-reader, Bull Connor had sent huge attack dogs and fire hoses against the teenagers of Birmingham, and Dr. King already understood he would not make it out of the struggle alive. And by bizarre coincidence, Elvis was already perched on my nightstand. We were in the Vegas years, and Priscilla said that on the nights he wasn’t performing, the man just ate and took pills out of boredom. And downstairs, even my fiction and humor were looking a trifle grim.In situations like that, some foot-stomping humor is not only welcome, but necessary. In Officer Elvis, someone has murdered an Elvis impersonator in Jackson, Mississippi. The case goes to Damn Yankee transplant Officer Darla Cavannah. “Damn Yankees were the ones who came to the South and stayed.” She is assisted by her newbie partner, Rita, who “…might be a licorice stick short in the judgment department, but she ain’t afraid of the devil.” Darla doesn’t fit in well in Jackson, but she has to stay because her husband is the last doctor in the state that will help women who want to terminate a pregnancy. If he leaves, they lose their access. And as if we hadn’t irony enough, Darla and her spouse are trying to get pregnant…but who has time? I will grant that my fondness for this ham-handed satire is assisted by my own Yankee urban snobbery; and yet, I did have an Aunt Sister and not one but two Uncle Brothers of whom I was quite fond, thank you very much, and so if you are a Southerner, you just might enjoy this as much as I did…bless your heart. It was a quick read and extremely accessible. Who doesn’t need a laugh? You get online now, and you order you a copy. It’s up for sale this very minute. It’s for your own good!
Ratbruce More than 1 year ago
This was a fun read. If you like crime fiction, characters with intriguing personality quirks  and mysteries laced with humor you can't go  wrong  with Officer Elvis 
Splashesintobooks1 More than 1 year ago
A murderous rockin' fun read! When Darla Cavannah’s frenemy and ex-partner, nicknamed Officer Elvis, is murdered she sticks to the premise that, like Humphrey Bogart’s character in ‘The Maltese Falcon’, when your partner is murdered, you’re obliged to do something about it. He’d been at a venue performing as Elvis and was killed as he left. Assuming it wasn’t his abysmal performance that triggered this, Darla wants to investigate but her boss, Shelby, is reticent and only agrees if she’ll let Rita Gibbons partner her. In this case she uncovers a serial killer targeting Elvis tribute acts! This is a rock n’rolling multiple murder mystery – complete with mafia, crooked lawyers and mobsters in a spicy Mississipian tale. It has many laugh out loud moments and is a fun read despite the nature of the story. Thanks to the author, publishers and NetGalley, too, for letting me read this book in exchange for an honest review.