In this second installment of a series characterized by "offbeat humor and unflinching violence" (NTYBR), the eponymous and hapless detective Happy Doll returns with a new philosophy and a new case; "Hard-boiled PI fiction set in the present doesn’t get much better." (Publishers Weekly, STARRED)
Although badly scarred and down to his last kidney after the previous caper, Happy Doll is back in business. When a beguiling young woman turns up at his door, it’s Doll’s past that comes knocking. Mary DeAngelo is searching for her estranged mother, Ines Candle—a singular and troubled woman Doll once loved. The last he’d seen her she’d been near-death: arms slit like envelopes. Although she survived the episode, she vanished shortly thereafter. Now, years later, Mary claims Ines is alive and has recently made contact—messaging her on Facebook and calling her from a burner phone—only to disappear once again. Although his psychoanalyst would discourage it, Doll takes the case, desperate to see Ines again. But as the investigation deepens, there are questions he can’t shake. What’s led the flighty Ines to reappear? Is Mary only relaying half the truth? And who is Mary’s strange and mysterious husband?
In this wholly original follow-up to A Man Named Doll, Happy travels through L.A., Washington, Oregon and back again—a journey that gets wilder and woolier with each turn. An irreverent and inventive mystery, The Wheel of Doll is not to be missed.
Hard-boiled PI fiction set in the present doesn't get much better than Ames's gritty and moving second novel featuring L.A. gumshoe Happy Doll (after 2021's A Man Named Doll). Doll revisits his past when he gets a new client, Mary DeAngelo, who hires him to find her missing mother, last seen in Olympia, Wash. Mary explains that she's approached Doll, rather than an Olympia investigator, because her mother, Ines Candle, was briefly Doll's girlfriend. Doll hasn't seen Ines, a troubled soul whom the detective saved from a wrist-slitting suicide attempt, for years, but the pleasurable moments they shared prompts him to accept the case. What Doll finds when he gets to Olympia is depressing and leads to multiple murders. The Raymond Chandler–esque plot is enhanced by superior prose: a handshake is described as "a violent squeeze, the kind that religious zealots or football coaches give, to show you they're real men, men of strength, with an undercurrent of sadism." Devotees of Loren Estleman's long-running PI Amos Walker series will hope Doll has a similarly enduring career. Agent: Eric Simonoff, William Morris Endeavor.