Our hero is Woody Hazelbaker, a young midwesterner who works for a prominent New York law firm during the Depression. He's afraid he might lose his job, as others have, but because of his un-lawyerly personality, the head of the firm gives him a new client, one that others in the firm wouldn't care to work with: Owney Madden.
Madden is the first of many actual historical figures to appear in the pages of the novel, and Hazelbaker learns a lot from their association. He profits from it in a lot of different ways as the story moves along.
Hazelbaker also falls in with Christopher Morley's Baker Street Irregulars, and it's a lot of fun to see what Lellenberg does with characters like Morley, Rex Stout, Alexander Woolcott, Basil Davenport, Lucius Beebe, and Fletcher Pratt, to name a few.
When WWII comes along, Hazelbaker and many of the other Irregulars are involved in various ways, primarily with code-breaking and espionage. They're a big help to the allies, and Hazelbaker sees a bit of England and Europe along the way. He's a married man now, though separated from his wife, and that part of the story is also tied to the war effort.
I was a bit intimidated when I saw how long this book was, but the writing swept me up and carried me right along. The complex story is easy to follow, and Woody Hazelbaker is an engaging and sympathetic narrator. Sherlockians will enjoy the by-play among the Irregulars, and everyone will get a nice refresher course in mid-20th century American history. Baker Street Irregular is an ambitious and entertaining book. I really enjoyed it.