Ghostwriting sleuth Stewart Hoag investigates the murder of his wealthy neighbor—and discovers her dark, mobbed-up past.
A 1955 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud is a fantastically expensive car, especially in the pristine condition of the one owned by Muriel Cantrell. Living in a luxury apartment building on Central Park West, the delicate, sweet 75-year-old woman is a neighbor of Merilee Nash, the beautiful movie star, and Stuart Hoag, whose first book was a sensation but whose career crashed when he became involved with drugs and alcohol. Divorced ten years earlier, Hoagy has been welcomed back into Merilee’s life and apartment.
Apparently universally beloved in her building, residents are shocked when Muriel is murdered after a Halloween party. No one takes it harder than her long-time chauffeur, Bullets Durmond, whose previous job was as an enforcer for the mob. Who in the world would want to harm the silver-haired lady whose major vices were buying shoes and Chanel suits (always in cash), and watching day-time soap operas?
Lieutenant Romaine Very of the NYPD is called to investigate and again seeks help from his friend Hoagy who, along with his basset hound Lulu, has been an invaluable aide in the past. The investigation leads to the unexpected source of Muriel’s wealth, the history of her early years as a hatcheck girl at the Copacabana, how her chauffeur came to be called Bullets, her desperate meth-head nephew, and her wealthy neighbors, who have secrets of their own.
Handler’s Stuart Hoag mysteries are always a treat to read. They bridge the gap between cozy and hardboiled, nicely blending elements of both. The recent proliferation of cozy mysteries has resulted in a lot of ridiculous but mostly fun stories that can be read in an afternoon. What I enjoy about the Hoag series is that the stories incorporate the basic element of a cozy ( very little to no graphic, gory detail) with some well-crafted writing and plotting paired with witty and clever dialog.
The characters introduced here, especially Muriel Cantrell and her driver Bullets Durmond, are as over the top as we expect in a Hoag story. Their backstory was well-done and fitted into Hoagy’s world of cool, calm, and unexpected. I will say, however, that Lulu tipped her beret at the killer early on. Always listen to the pup!
Handler delivers his trademark witty dialog and a well-crafted mystery, along with plenty of whimsy in the form of Lulu, Hoagy’s trusted sidekick and my favorite literary basset hound. If you’re a cozy mystery fan looking for something a little different, try this series. You can start from the beginning, but each book stands alone so you can really pick up any title in the series and start there.
Publication Date: February 22, 2022
Published By: Mysterious Press
Thanks to the Publisher for the review copy