Review: Junior Bender is a master thief. To him, "a wall safe is the perfect object. To you, it may be a hole in the wall with a door on it. To [him] it's one hundred percent potential." That doesn't mean he's not subject to his own weaknesses — like a fondness for safes — or incapable of making mistakes, only that the choices he makes are manageable, good or bad. Except this time. He doesn't expect to be set up, a con being conned as it were, leaving him no choice but to agree to the consequences in Crashed, the first mystery in this series by Tim Hallinan.
Following a bungled robbery, Junior is coerced into investigating a series of accidents that surround the production of a porn film. It's hardly something for which he is qualified, but he has no choice. The producer is one of the region's — maybe the region's — reigning crime family bosses … and she's a woman, no less. She's shutting down all her illicit criminal activities to focus on something more profitable: legitimate business in the twenty-first century. But in order to bankroll her new life, she needs this film made, and the star, Thistle Downing, America's sweetheart, is the key to its success. Unfortunately, Thistle is a problem unto herself, and minding her is another job that Junior seems uniquely unqualified for. Still and all, if Junior can get through this he's off the hook with the mob … and that's worth something.
A lengthy opening gambit serves to both introduce the character of Junior Bender and set the tone for the book. The narrative races along at a breakneck speed and is recklessly entertaining. What follows almost seems tame by comparison. Junior is a roguish kind of guy prone to excessive hyperbole — a redundant expression that seems most apt here — when describing his surroundings or quantifying something. It's amusing at first but does get a little tiresome after a while. The plot is nicely structured, cleverly taking advantage of this strongly developed lead character, a well drawn cast of supporting characters, and the (somewhat stereotypical) Southern California culture and lifestyle. But possibly most to its credit is that Crashed doesn't veer to extremes, something that could easily have happened, all the while managing to be a credible — and most enjoyable — crime novel without becoming a parody of itself.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided an eARC of Crashed for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Fear Artist
Soho Crime (Hardcover), July 2012
ISBN-13: 9781616951122; ISBN-10: 1616951125
Soho Crime (Hardcover), January 2013
ISBN-13: 9781616952778; ISBN-10: 1616952776
Location(s) referenced in Crashed: Los Angeles, California
— ♦ —
Crashed by Timothy Hallinan — A Junior Bender Mystery
Publisher: Soho Crime
Publication Date: November 2012
List Price: $25.00