cover image The Man Who Loved Women to Death

The Man Who Loved Women to Death

David Handler. Doubleday Books, $23.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-385-48052-9

The eighth in the series about sleuthing celebrity ghostwriter Stewart ""Hoagy"" Hoag is subpar for Edgar-winner Handler (The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald). The edgy-bitchy dialogue has become forced and jarring; the details of Hoagy's elaborate wardrobe and lifestyle sag from overuse; the putative villain, on the scene early and obviously, can only be a red herring. Hoagy's colorful life in Manhattan is careening along with his ex-wife, Merilee (they're divorced but living together), his 18-month-old daughter, Tracy, and his aging basset hound, Lulu. Then he receives part of a manuscript from a writer who calls himself the Answer Man and wants Hoagy to collaborate on a book. The first chapter describes the stalking and murder of a young woman who runs a pet-supply store. When a victim of the same description and occupation turns up dead in Riverside Park, Hoagy knows he's in trouble. As the chapters from the Answer Man keep arriving, matching murders keep occurring. In the story, Hoagy spots clues that suggest that the writer/killer just might be his old college chum Tuttle Cash, a former athlete with a history of violence. Since this revelation comes to Hoagy about one-quarter of the way into the tale, readers can expect either a false alarm or one of the longest chases in mystery history. By the time Handler reveals the answer, all but diehard Hoagy fans will have given up. (May )