The Lady in the Silver Cloud (Stewart Hoag Mysteries)
"This is confection in the guise of a mystery novel; it goes down easy as a milkshake."—Sarah Weinman, The New York Times Book Review
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.
Set in 1993, Edgar winner Handler's quaint 13th Stewart Hoag mystery (after 2021's The Man Who Wasn't All There) finds ghostwriter Stewart and his dog, Lulu, temporarily living in the luxury apartment on Central Park West owned by his accommodating ex-wife, Merilee Nash, a "gorgeous blonde Oscar and Tony Award winning actress." When Merilee's neighbor, Muriel Cantrell, "an exquisitely delicate, silver-haired lady in her early '70s," is found dead in a stairwell of the building after a Halloween party, Stewart and Lulu join Lt. Romaine Very of the NYPD to investigate. Eccentric suspects include a ruthless corporate raider, a Park Avenue socialite who dabbles in fashion design, a composer who aspires to being the next Stephen Sondheim, lawyers with mob connections, and a former cigarette girl at a swanky nightclub. Muriel, meanwhile, turns out not to have been the wealthy widow she seemed. Stewart's mildly charming narration makes up only in part for an obvious resolution that's followed by his telling all sorts of people whodunit yet again. Those already invested in Stewart and friends will best appreciate this outing.