Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Book Review: The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes by David Handler

David Handler has a new book out in his Stewart Hoag series and Kerry Hammond is here to tell us about it.

The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes is the ninth book in the Stewart Hoag mystery series. The previous eight were written in the 1980s and 1990s, but 20 years later the characters are back. The book picks up where the author left off and the action takes place in 1992. In addition to his Stewart Hoag series, Handler is the author of two other mystery series, a thriller, and a couple of non-mystery books. I am always looking for new series to try and I decided to take a chance on such a prolific author.

In The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes, Stewart Hoag, aka Hoagy, wrote a novel that shot up the charts and propelled him to literary fame. Since then, however, his writing has taken quite a nosedive. He is currently a ghostwriter, writing books for celebrities who want their stories told. One day he is contacted by his agent, whom he affectionately calls the Silver Fox, and is asked to ghostwrite a book for Monette Aintree, the daughter of the famous novelist Richard Aintree. Richard Aintree fell off the face of the earth two decades earlier after writing the great American novel. Monette is a celebrity in her own right after she published a tell-all book about her father’s sexual abuse, which she later recanted in her second book.

Monette’s need for a ghostwriter is due to a letter she received from her father telling her that he wants to make things right and that she needs to contact Hoagy to proceed. Even though he’s mentioned by name, Hoagy is torn about getting involved. Partly because he’s unsure if the letter really is from Richard Aintree and partly because many moons ago he was madly in love with Reggie, Monette’s sister and Richard’s other daughter.  The sisters have not spoken since Monette’s books and Hoagy hasn’t seen Reggie since the day he walked out on her, a breakup which led to his penning his famous book.

Hoagy travels to L.A. to meet Monette and is living in her pool house with his basset hound Lulu when the stakes are raised even higher, this time to murder. Ghostwriting turns into crime-solving and Hoagy and Lulu are caught up in yet another mystery that needs to be solved.

I was drawn into the book from the very first page. I really liked Hoagy and Lulu, and the author’s writing style hooked me. Having the book set in 1992 added another layer of fun. There were flashbacks from popular music to AT&T calling cards used at pay phones. More importantly, not everyone had a cell phone and when they did appear they were few and far between and the size of a toaster. Hoagy even types on an Olympia typewriter and refuses to use modern word processors.

This was my first Stewart Hoag mystery but short of looking up the author’s previous works, I never would have guessed that I had jumped into a series at book nine. It read like a standalone mystery and I had no problem getting right into it. I can’t quite put my finger on Handler’s writing style. Hoagy is witty, real and matter of fact. He was once famous enough that he can hobnob with celebrities, yet their lifestyles are clearly much different than his own. The fact that he takes his dog everywhere he goes just adds to his likeability. I was reminded of noir novels set in the 50s, complete with trench coat and fedora, but replace the cigars and dames with an anchovy eating basset hound and you’ve got this series.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review was fair and completely independent. 

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