First line: “The Silver Fox was waiting for me in a back booth at Wan-Q, the retro nonchic Cantonese restaurant that was two doors down from the rear entrance to the Essex House on West Fifty-Sixth Street.”
After a twenty-year hiatus, ghostwriter Stewart Hoag and his four-legged side-kick Lulu are back. Full disclosure: I haven’t read any of the eight earlier books in this series, but now I want to hunt them down and explore the early years.
Stewart “Hoagy” Hoag is a ghostwriter. Years ago he wrote his own bestselling novel but then the well ran dry. Now he’s helping others get the notoriety, and his agent has a new job for him–one with personal connections. Reggie Aintree is a successful poet, Hoagy’s former flame and the woman he dedicated his single novel to. She also happens to be the daughter of Richard Aintree who also wrote one novel. The difference between Richard and Hoagy is the fact that Richard’s novel is taught in all high school English classes. Well that and Richard vanished after his wife’s suicide; he hasn’t been seen since.
Add into the Aintree family mix Monette, Reggie’s sister. Monette is a media mogul currently separated from her wildly popular actor husband, Patrick Van Pelt. And Monette believes she has just received a letter from her long-lost father. Enter Hoagy whose been summoned to ghostwrite the tell-all that could potentially arise from the return of Richard Aintree. Begrudgingly he packs his bags and heads out to Los Angeles, taking up residence in Monette’s beach house as they await the return of the infamous Aintree patriarch. Let murder and mayhem commence.
Set in 1992, David Handler takes me back down memory lane in The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes through new fangled mobile phones, references and allusions to the decade’s pop culture (90210 anyone?), and the emerging popularity of word processors. But the universal absurdity of celebrity chaos required me to regularly remind myself it was 1992. Handler’s characters are as colorful as the book’s title and his humorous depictions of Lulu, especially her eating and sleeping habits, exude authenticity. As a dog lover, I appreciate that Lulu isn’t forgotten. If Hoagy’s eating on a restaurant patio, Lulu is laying at his feet. When he’s driving, she’s in the car. She doesn’t just vanish with no explanation of where she is or how she got there.
Some of the police procedure seems a little questionable, but I’m not an expert and the plot isn’t supposed to be a serious crime story. It’s light-hearted and fun with some weightier themes around drugs and relationships that are the real crux of the book.
Handler doesn’t leave his readers wondering what people or places look like nor what meals consist of. But as long as you can get past the excess detail, The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes is an enjoyable, fast-paced mystery chock full of Hollywood, humor and havoc. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m headed to find the earlier books in this series.
The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes is available in paperback and ebook from William Morrow.
My review is the first of the TLC Book Tour for The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes. You can find out what others have to say about this fun mystery by visiting the tour page at TLC’s website. You can also find David Handler on Facebook.