The Fame Thief
Review: Junior Bender can't so no to Irwin Dressler, the man behind the curtain that was — and probably still is — the business of Hollywood. So when Dressler asks Junior to find out who set up young Delores La Marr sixty years ago, he's puzzled by the request — after all, why can it possibly matter now — but proceeds to do what he does best and look into the matter in his own inimitable way in The Fame Thief, the third mystery in this series by Timothy Hallinan.
In her youth, Delores La Marr was a beauty, the very definition of drop dead gorgeous. She wanted to be in show business, and did whatever — and whoever — it took to be there. Unfortunately, someone took some photos of her in a less than glamorous position and her career, to put it charitably, stalled. She's now an overweight recluse and can't see why Dressler would dig around in the past but like everyone else in his sphere of influence, she can't say no. As Junior moves from person to person, he realizes that the past is just as important to someone other than Dressler, someone who is willing to kill to keep Junior from discovering who altered the course of Hollywood history so many decades ago.
The Fame Thief is the darkest and slowest paced of the three books in this series, marginally better than the previous one, not nearly as good as the first. There are passing references to events in the preceding books, but nothing that would prevent a reader from enjoying this as a stand-alone. The highlight here is the character of Junior Bender, whose view of the world is slightly shaded by his profession, a master thief who works for other criminals (or those inclined to be). It's a tricky position to be in; as he puts it, "If I solve the crime, the perp wants to kill me. If I don't solve it, my client wants to kill me." His only real fault is a tendency to describe things in hyperbole, which is amusing at first but gets tiresome after a while. The storyline, to be sure, is not nearly as engaging as the cast of characters. It's clear the author did quite a bit of research into Hollywood of the 1950s, and some of what is written comes off as dry and dusty facts, including a mid-book detour back in time that adds nothing to the story as a whole. Still, the beginning and ending are strong enough to compensate for a decidedly lackluster middle, and Junior Bender is a rather unique and unusual character in crime fiction, one worth following even if what he's investigating comes across as more research paper than mystery novel.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided an ARC of The Fame Thief for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Soho Crime (Hardcover), January 2013
ISBN-13: 9781616952778; ISBN-10: 1616952776
Soho Crime (Hardcover), July 2014
ISBN-13: 9781616954291; ISBN-10: 1616954299
Location(s) referenced in The Fame Thief: Hollywood, California
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The Fame Thief by Timothy Hallinan — A Junior Bender Mystery
Publisher: Soho Crime
Publication Date: July 2013
List Price: $25.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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