The Wheel of Doll by Jonathan Ames

Is it a noir? Is it a hard-boiled detective story? Is it a bit of both? Probably, but it contains the security expert, Happy Doll, on a mission to find a missing person, the mother of a woman who visited him in his office. He knew something wasn’t quite right but when the name of the missing person was mentioned – Ines Candle – he knew he would take the case because she was once his lover.

There are parts of this story which are quite unbelievable: Doll does kill a lot of people, especially at the end and there is no real wrap up for this. Perhaps the next book will start off where this one finished. At this point, Doll is snorting cocain and heroin, has a nasty wound on his thigh and has just had a dip in the local river so it is bound to become infected. However, to try and control himself, he does have Buddhist leanings and a dog that loves him no matter how many people he kills.

One of the things that Chandler, the king of hard-boiled detectives, did was to use similes very effectively and so does Ames.

The back doors of the van were open like wings, and he sat on the lip of the interior, with his feet dangling. Behind him was his mattress and there was clutter and garbage all around his bed, like a human version of a bird’s nest – if the bird had begun to lose its mind.


There’s humour, wisecracks and dialogue that is spikey and staccato. The wheel that is named in the title is the full circle Doll goes through in finding the love of his life, only to lose her again. It takes him back to his drug addict days.

It’s a quick read and is good fun if you can suspend disbelief long enough.

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