cover image A Man Named Doll

A Man Named Doll

Jonathan Ames. Mulholland, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-0-316-70365-9

At the outset of this exceptional series launch from Ames (You Were Never Really There), L.A. PI Hank “Happy” Doll (Happy is his real name; his parents “didn’t think it was a joke”) meets an old friend—Lou Shelton, an ex-cop who once saved Doll’s life—who needs a huge favor: a kidney. He wants to buy one of Doll’s. That evening, Doll, at his second job handling security for a massage parlor, shoots and kills a meth-head freak who goes after one of the masseuses, then attacks Doll with a knife. Later, Shelton appears at Doll’s door, shot and near-dead, and hands Doll a diamond (“for my daughter”). The people who shot Shelton are now after Doll, who becomes enmeshed in an organ-harvesting scheme, in which Doll and his sometime girlfriend, Monica Santos, are meant to be victims. While the macabre seriousness of the crimes and the narrator’s good-nature and sardonic humor might seem to be at odds, Ames makes it work through assured plotting, superb local color, and excellent prose. Readers will happily root for Doll, a good detective and a decent human, in this often funny and grisly outing. Agent: Agent: Eric Simonoff, William Morris Endeavor. (Apr.)