In this deliciously noir novel from the creator of HBO's Bored to Death, idiosyncratic private detective Happy Doll embarks on a quest to help a dying friend in a sun-blinded Los Angeles as "quirky, edgy, charming, funny and serious" as its protagonist (Lee Child).
Happy Doll is a charming, if occasionally inexpert, private detective living just one sheer cliff drop beneath the Hollywood sign with his beloved half-Chihuahua half-Terrier, George. A veteran of both the Navy and LAPD, Doll supplements his meager income as a P.I. by working through the night at a local Thai spa that offers its clients a number of special services. Armed with his sixteen-inch steel telescopic baton, biting dry humor, and just a bit of a hero complex, the ex-cop sets out to protect the women who work there from clients who have trouble understanding the word "no."
Doll gets by just fine following his two basic rules: bark loudly and act first. But when things get out-of-hand with one particularly violent patron, even he finds himself wildly out of his depth, and then things take an even more dangerous twist when an old friend from his days as a cop shows up at his door with a bullet in his gut.
A Man Named Doll is more than just a fascinating introduction to one truly singular character, it is a highly addictive and completely unpredictable joyride through the sensuous and violent streets of LA.
At the outset of this exceptional series launch from Ames (You Were Never Really There), L.A. PI Hank "Happy" Doll (Happy is his real name; his parents "didn't think it was a joke") meets an old friend—Lou Shelton, an ex-cop who once saved Doll's life—who needs a huge favor: a kidney. He wants to buy one of Doll's. That evening, Doll, at his second job handling security for a massage parlor, shoots and kills a meth-head freak who goes after one of the masseuses, then attacks Doll with a knife. Later, Shelton appears at Doll's door, shot and near-dead, and hands Doll a diamond ("for my daughter"). The people who shot Shelton are now after Doll, who becomes enmeshed in an organ-harvesting scheme, in which Doll and his sometime girlfriend, Monica Santos, are meant to be victims. While the macabre seriousness of the crimes and the narrator's good-nature and sardonic humor might seem to be at odds, Ames makes it work through assured plotting, superb local color, and excellent prose. Readers will happily root for Doll, a good detective and a decent human, in this often funny and grisly outing.
A miss of a book I wished I’d missed
On the positive side, the book is short. Unfortunately, it’s as short on engaging story and character as it is in length. Doll fails for me as a hero. The story feels more rehashed than hard-boiled. All in all, I was glad when it ended. So much so that I chose not to read the free teaser previewing Doll’s next adventure that was tagged on at the end.