Review: Master thief Junior Bender is arm-twisted by a police detective to look into a personal matter for him: his uncle will likely be identified as the most probable suspect in the murder of a tabloid reporter and the detective wants Junior to use some of his connections to prove he didn't do it … or come up with an alternative suspect, whichever is easier … in Little Elvises, the second mystery in this series by Timothy Hallinan.
In the early days of rock-n-roll, Vinnie DiGaudio was a shameless promoter of young male singers, so-called "Little Elvises", named after the most popular singer at the time. "[Girls] were going to buy magazines with their pictures on the front and write the guys' names all over everything, and fifteen minutes later they were going to get a crush on the next one," he once told an interviewer. "So there had to be a next one." Flash forward to the present and Vinnie is no longer in the business, but his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a reminder of what role he once played. And — coincidentally? — the very same spot where the body of reporter Derek Bigelow was found. Vinnie admits he wanted Derek dead and made sure lots of other people knew it too. Indeed, he was planning that very evening to do the deed himself. Except someone beat him to it. Or so he says. Meanwhile, Marge, the manager of the Christmas-themed motel where Junior is staying, wants him to find her daughter Doris, who fled the North Pole to live with a man Marge thinks of as Mr. Pinkie Ring — she doesn't know his name — and is now missing, the home she was living in "scoured in nine directions like they were afraid of fingerprints."
Junior hardly has time for his own family with all that's going in Little Elvises. And that's too bad, because in some respects Junior's relationship with his ex-wife and more importantly his teenaged daughter Rina are the best parts of the book. The two primary investigations aren't all that interesting; even Junior himself isn't all that engaging. What seems to be lacking here is energy, on the parts of both the character and the narrative. Maybe the problem is one of comparison to the previous (and first) book in the series. There is humor here, but it isn't the kind of edgy humor that was seen before. There are action and close calls here, but they're not as dynamic or exciting. There are some twists here, but they're rather predictable twists, not the unforeseen ones that made Junior's previous case so delightfully enjoyable. Read as a stand-alone (which it can be), Little Elvises is agreeable entertainment, but as a sequel it is a bit disappointing.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided an eARC of Little Elvises for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Soho Crime (Hardcover), November 2012
ISBN-13: 9781616952747; ISBN-10: 1616952741
The Fame Thief
Soho Crime (Hardcover), July 2013
ISBN-13: 9781616952808; ISBN-10: 1616952806
Location(s) referenced in Little Elvises: Los Angeles, California
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Little Elvises by Timothy Hallinan — A Junior Bender Mystery
Publisher: Soho Crime
Publication Date: January 2013
List Price: $25.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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