Madcap Greenwich Village poet Olivia Brown (Free Love, 1999), omnipresent cigarette in one hand and bottle of bootleg gin in the other, joins Vanity Fair editor Edmund (Bunny) Wilson and his date Daisy, aspiring novelist Dave Wolfe, gorgeous Paulo Ewing, and her tenant, superbrain private detective Harry Melville, for a house party at the Croton digs of Fordy and Kate Vaude, only to have their fun disrupted when the Vaude nanny, Adelle, is found hanging from a tree branch. Suicide? Not likely. Adelle turns out to have recently left the employ of the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Who was she snooping for at the Vaudes? Olivia and Harry drink more gin, visit some speakeasies (where Olivia catches the eye of notorious gangster Monk Eastman), and bump up against an investigation mounted by detective Lester Nolan, who hints that the Secret Service is involved; that Adelle and Daisy were sisters; and that Fordy's frequent trips to Rome were suspect. After a poetry reading at Yale, Olivia discovers a tell-all photograph that explains several relationships, but not before the Hudson Dusters, a scruffy band Harry uses for legwork, have to rescue her from the dreaded Black Hand, a villainous gang that has already slit the tongues—and worse—of two of their enemies.
Bunny Wilson, author of the infamous essay “Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?,” is probably spinning in his grave at being used as a character in a mystery. For the rest, Olivia is adorable, the ’20s do roar with authenticity, and the plot bumbles in and out of potholes with Meyers’s usual disregard for subtlety.