cover image The Boy Who Never Grew Up

The Boy Who Never Grew Up

David Handler. Doubleday Books, $16.5 (324pp) ISBN 978-0-385-42159-1

Edgar-winning Handler's sixth Stewart ``Hoagy'' Hoag mystery will surely captivate admirers of the celebrity ghostwriter/sleuth, but it is bound to annoy some readers. One has to love a smart aleck to join the fan club here, because Hoagy never gives a straight response when a wisecrack will do--which seems to be most of the time. Leaving New York City, he heads west to ghostwrite a memoir for a Hollywood wunderkind, director Matthew Wax, and finds himself smack in the middle of a messy, money-grubbing, tabloid-banner divorce war between his brilliantly naif subject and his greedy, street-smart wife, the actress Pennyroyal Brim. At stake is Wax's studio, Bedford Falls (yes, named after the town in It's a Wonderful Life ), which Pennyroyal intends to claim and then sell to Panorama City for a cool $150 million. Rounding out the well-drawn cast in a plot that proceeds from mean to nasty to murderous are Abel Zorch, Pennyroyal's unscrupulous attorney; Johnny Forget, former child star and Wax protege; Cassandra Dee, ghostwriter for Pennyroyal Brim; and Norbert Schlom, president of Panorama City. On the way to a brisk finale, Handler sharply skewers and spoofs La-La Land until Hoagy can at last quip his way back home again. Author tour. (Sept.)