Thursday, August 31, 2017

Review: The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes by David Handler

Isn't it funny how over time your tastes change? There are foods I never liked as a child that I love now and some I used to like and am less impressed with now. There are colors I like better than I used to, clothing styles I wouldn't have touched with a ten foot pole that I'll now wear. And of course, my reading tastes have evolved too. I started out reading everything. Then I went through a stage where if it wasn't literature (and please pronounce that as lit-ruh-chure and loft your nose into the air as you say it), I wasn't interested. I was a serious reader, you see. Then I went through a phase where I read romances like candy, devouring their guaranteed happily ever afters. Now I like to think I am a much more balanced reader. I want something that is well-written. I like it to be thoughtful but it doesn't always have to be. Most of all, though, I want a cracking good story. That can mean heavy or light, funny or not. But it means a book that keeps me turning the pages, wanting to live in its world (although for the sad or heavy books, maybe not as one of the characters!). And I am finding these across genres. They happen in literature. They happen in romances. They happen in commercial fiction. To my surprise (and perhaps down to my ever changing taste), they happen in mysteries. David Handler's newest mystery, The Girl With the Kaleidoscope Eyes is one such book. After a twenty year hiatus from his Stewart Hoag series, Handler is back with another adventure for Hoagy and his basset hound sidekick Lulu.

Hoagy was once the darling of the literary world, publishing a novel that promised an amazing career. He married a famous actress but when he was unable to write a second novel, he crashed and burned spectacularly. Now Hoagy's divorced, although still close with his ex-wife, and his career as a ghost writer is pretty successful.  But he's still not writing his own novel. His agent offers him a big, developing story as his next ghost project and although there are signs that Hoagy should turn it down, he agrees to it.

Richard Aintree was a famous author who disappeared after his wife committed suicide. He left behind his two daughters, one of whom, Monette, has turned herself into a wildly successful lifestyle brand, married a popular actor from whom she is now separated, and has two teenage children. The other, Reggie, was once a poet of some re-known herself as well as being an ex of Hoagy's, the one to whom he dedicated his novel, his first love. The sisters have been estranged for two decades, ever since their father disappeared. It appears though, that Richard is preparing to surface from his long-time self-imposed anonymity, writing first to Monette and then to Reggie.  The literary establishment wants Hoagy to document this reappearance in a book. Or the whole thing could be a hoax for a host of reasons, perpetrated by a host of different people. Either way, Hoagy and his four legged sidekick Lulu fly out to Monette's house in LA and get completely embroiled in the sensational tabloid mess going on in Hollywood. Monette's husband has apparently gotten his nineteen year old co-star pregnant and it's caused a major media feeding frenzy. In the midst of this, Hoagy's trying to figure out the legitimacy of the letters to the Aintree daughters but his assignment gets completely overshadowed when there's a murder and then even more bodies start to pile up. People are clearly lying about what truly happened and Hoagy, assisted by Lulu, just wants to uncover the truth.

Although this is the ninth in the series, it stands on its own with no trouble. Hoagy and Lulu are fantastic characters and all of the secondary characters are fully realized and totally human as well, flaws and all. The 1992 setting is delightful, as it allows the reader to remember back to the beginnings of personal computers, cell phones the size of bricks, and other nascent technology and Handler does a good job integrating their use into the story, grounding the novel in a definite time period, without being too serious or didactic about the technological advances we've now gone so far past.  His portrayal of the chaos and unreality of Hollywood and celebrity is marvelous as well.  There is a wonderful sense of humor here and it pops up in unexpected places such as when Hoagy dons a light green shirt to match his skin after he'd been drinking the night before or when the literary agent and the producer both retreat to opposite sides of the pool to get better signals and talk/shout on their cell phones. It's not often that I've read a mystery that made me smile like this one did, twining levity and noir together so well. And the ending had several neat twists to it that were entirely believable in the context of what went before. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and might just have to catch myself up on the back list of Hoagy and Lulu's adventures and I certainly hope they will add more in the future as well because this was indeed a cracking good read.

For more information about David Handler and the book, check out his website, like him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book to review.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like quite an entertaining read! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for being a part of the tour!


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