Dorothy Parker is famous for her elegant quips, biting wit, and copious consumption of alcohol, but this novel also imagines her as an amateur sleuth. When Dorothy shows up at the Algonquin for lunch with her fellow literati, she sees a man’s feet sticking out from under the Round Table. But he’s not dead drunk, as Dorothy first assumes — just dead. Dorothy and her friends soon learn that the corpse is Leland Mayflower, a famous critic with many professional rivals. The police are intent on arresting a shy young Mississippi writer named Billy Faulkner, but Dorothy thinks they’ve got the wrong man. Along with Robert Benchley and the rest of the Algonquin’s “vicious circle,” Dorothy sets out to find the real killer, tossing off jokes and martinis with equal speed along the way.
I don’t know too terribly much about Dorothy Parker, but when I saw the premise of this book, I knew I had to check it out. It’s an extremely fun read, mostly because of the rapid-fire dialogue between Dorothy and her literary friends. I especially loved Robert Benchley’s character, whom I pictured as a slightly more intelligent Bertie Wooster. The mystery itself is definitely secondary to the setting and all of the famous characters, but it’s still well-plotted. My only complaint is that the ending dragged on for too long. After the guilty party’s identity is revealed, there are several more chapters in which Dorothy, the police, and a mob boss all chase the murderer around New York City. It got a bit tedious for me; I don’t enjoy a long denouement once the villain is unmasked. But overall I enjoyed this book a lot, and it’s inspired me to finally read some Dorothy Parker!