reviewed by Gail Byrd
In David Handler’s latest book, The Lady in the Silver Cloud, Stewart Hoag (Hoagy) is back with his unique tongue in cheek narrative covering his latest adventure with crime. While this is part of a longer series, the book stands alone, with the mystery being fully contained within the pages of this novel.
There are some threads that are continuations from previous books, primarily having to do with his relationship with his wife, er ex-wife, er it’s complicated wife, but Handler does a good job of weaving enough of the backstory in so that the reader never feels lost in terms of where Hoagy is in his personal relationships or his own personal quirks. While the reader may enjoy this one enough to want to go back and read the series in its entirety in order, that isn’t necessary to enjoy this book fully.
Hoagy, and his lovable basset hound Lulu, have moved back into the exclusive highrise where Merilee (said former wife) owns a penthouse. He has recovered from years of writer’s block and is immersed in writing his next novel, following a strict routine of writing every morning, exercising, then re-typing. He does make some observations about his fellow high-rise dwellers that help put these characters in high relief. While the book opens with Hoagy and Lulu being in the flat alone, Marilee soon moves back as the producers of her current movie place it on hold.
One of the most intriguing characters in the book is Muriel, a seventy something woman who lives in one of the penthouses and has a chauffeur who drives her wherever she wants to go in an exclusive Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. Muriel is introduced as a delightful, eccentric, extremely wealthy woman who has a routine of particular activities each day of the week, including one day a week to shop for Chanel Suits, which she wears exclusively.
It’s Halloween and the highrise is having their annual party where one flat on each floor holds an open house for residents. The children who live there go throughout the building, trick-or-treating while each floor’s adults have drinks and nibbles at their respective floor’s open house. Hoagy and Marilee attend the open house on their floor which this year is hosted by a gifted pianist who has chosen to cheat on his girlfriend with another of the floor’s residents. Ooops, it all makes for an interesting costume party, and that’s just the beginning of the activities Hoagy and his friend Detective Romaine Very get up to throughout the book.
As you might expect, Muriel turns out to be much different from the classy, wealthy retired woman she appears to be which Hoagy learns as he and Very start to investigate her murder. From that point, the reader is off and running, taking twists and turns that are totally unexpected and fully enjoying the ride which is narrated in Hoagy’s wonderful flippant style. It all gets resolved, as you would expect, with Lulu having given some strong hints about the guilty party. That is, she did so in between enjoying her favorite treats of sardines.
Marilee is a small part of the book, but she offers a picture of contentment and satisfaction with the life she and Hoagy have now. Very reveals himself to be a genuinely upstanding man, and everyone else falls somewhere along the spectrum. All of the characters are so well drawn you can see them in your mind if you simply close your eyes. You may have second thoughts of wanting to live in an exclusive highrise overlooking Central Park, but that’s a personal choice.
Regardless, I found this book to be highly entertaining and engaging in a unique way. I enjoy Hoagy’s humor as well as the honesty that projects itself across the page. I received an advance copy of this book from Penzler Publishers Mysterious Press for review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.