The next clever, witty, and touching installment in the Edgar award-winning Stewart Hoag mystery series finds the beloved ghostwriter-sleuth and his faithful neurotic basset hound, Lulu, back in 1990’s New York City, investigating a bestselling author’s stolen manuscript and three murders linked to the crime.
Washed-up celebrity ghostwriter Stewart “Hoagy” Hoag has finally rediscovered his voice and is making progress on what he hopes will be his long-awaited second novel. Burrowed up in his less-than-luxurious, sweltering fifth floor walk-up, he tries not to think of the disparities between himself and his ex-wife, celebrity actress Merilee Nash, who is sifting through film offers—and also her fickle feelings for Hoagy—from her elegant eight-room apartment looking over Central Park. When Merilee offers her home for Hoagy’s use while she’s shooting on location, hope blossoms that he might finally get some real work done… and solidify their rekindling romance.
Then Hoagy receives a call from his literary agent asking if he can meet with publishing’s most ruthless and reviled editor, Sylvia James, for a drink at the Algonquin Hotel. After disclosing that aging literary genius Addison James—also Sylvia’s father and main client—has not in fact written his last two bestselling historical sagas, Sylvia reveals her suspicions that Addison’s assistant Tommy O’Brien—the true author—has run away with their most recent manuscript and is holding it for ransom. Tempted by Sylvia’s offer to bid a hefty advance for his novel-in-progress, Hoagy agrees to help unearth Tommy’s sudden disappearance. If only he’d known exactly what he was getting himself into, he might’ve saved himself from the ensuing grief that follows in his hot pursuit of Tommy. But then, that wouldn’t be a normal day in the life of Hoagy.
With clattering claims of a mugging, a stolen manuscript, and three murders, now it’s up to Hoagy and his short-legged sidekick Lulu to unravel this baffling, bizarre case.
Set in 1993, Edgar-winner Handler's intricately plotted 11th Stewart Hoag mystery (after 2018's The Man Who Couldn't Miss) opens with a meeting between Hoagy, whose first and only novel was a huge success (though he is now reduced to ghosting celebrity memoirs), and Sylvia James, the editor-in-chief of a Manhattan publishing house, at the Algonquin Hotel. Sylvia, who's "the single most reviled woman in all of publishing," offers a big advance for Hoagy's second novel in exchange for him finding Tommy O'Brien, the longtime research assistant of her father, Addison James, "the wealthiest author in America." Tommy, the uncredited author of Addison's last two bestsellers, has disappeared with the manuscript of Addison's latest historical saga. Hoagy, who's Tommy's friend, agrees to look for Tommy and try to persuade him to return the manuscript. When things take a deadly turn, Hoagy joins forces with New York homicide detective Romaine Very to unravel a series of baffling murders. References to celebrities of the day Hoagy spots Gloria Steinem at the Algonquin help bring the period to life. Hoagy's fresh narrative voice is a pleasure to read.