cover image The Wheel of Doll

The Wheel of Doll

Jonathan Ames. Mulholland, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-0-316-28815-6

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. (Sept.)