* Now available in paperback!
By Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime, April 23, 2013 ($9.99)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Junior Bender is a bright, industrious, hard-working guy with a strong conscious and a good heart. He's also a world-class burglar who made his first break-in at age fourteen. He'd like to get out of the business, if for no other reason than that his ex-wife strongly disapproves of his career choice and how it might affect their young daughter. Retirement seems unlikely, though, because people keep making him offers he can't refuse. Offers like, if you don't take this job, you'll be on crutches for months, or I'll send you to prison...People who can help him or hurt him, depending on his response.
He gets one of those offers when he gets caught by his arch nemesis, a crooked cop, making off with a mobster's treasures. He has to act as bodyguard, chaperon and shrink for a former child star who is very close to the edge. After being the hottest, most talented television actress on the planet for several years, she went off the deep end and her career died. She retreated into a fog of drugs and self-destructive behavior, helped in her descent by the greedy behavior of those closest to her. Images of Lindsay Lohan will probably cross the reader's mind.
A mobster's daughter wants to become a legitimate businesswoman. One of her projects is to make a movie that will resurrect Thistle Downing's career and make her a lot of money. Thistle is desperate for money and has agreed, somehow blocking out the fact that the movie is far from the kind of entertainment she used to be involved in. At first Junior is unconcerned that he's been hired to keep Thistle on the straight and narrow while she's making an adult film, but his conscious starts to hurt. She may be messed up, but she still has the spark of genius, and she is a fragile, damaged human being.
What's a fellow to do? He's fond of walking, and living, and at the same time he does not want to lose his right to see his daughter. Remember that Junior is a clever and resourceful guy, though. He makes up a plan as he moves from one fleabag motel to another, performs a few burglaries and break-ins, avoids being mauled by vicious beasts from Hell or taken down by a pint-size duo with wicked driving skills.
This is the first in Hallinan's Junior Bender series, followed by LITTLE ELVISES and THE FAME THIEF. The series has already started winning awards, with many more sure to come. The author is also known for his excellent Poke Rafferty series, set in Thailand, and the Simeon Grist series. The wildly-talented Mr. Hallinan has another winner on his hands.
This review is based on the hardcover edition.
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