by Timothy Hallinan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read my first Timothy Hallinan book about a month ago (Crashed), fell in love with the author’s voice, and kept on the look out for another chapter in the life of Junior Bender, petty thief with a solid gold core and a sense of humor about everything that enters the gravity pull of his personal world.
I found it.
Little Elvises (Soho Crime January 2013) is the unlikely title (unless you’re an Elvis Fan; otherwise, you might be tempted to skip this one–don’t) for a multilayered, fast-moving crime drama. Junior Bender, the good-natured, light-hearted and very clever burglar who sometimes finds himself PI to the criminal element–as his most recent employer labeled him, the ‘crook’s cop’–finds himself once more dropped in the middle of a mystery he would rather avoid. But can’t. In this story, he is tricked (not really tricked, more like talked into by hanging a sword over his head) into finding the murderer of a despicable man to clear the name of another almost-as-despicable. Bender doesn’t care if he helps bad guys. It’s more about what downtrodden souls he can help along the way. As he follows the clues, almost getting killed several times, he discovers 1)there’s good in a beat-up widowed hotelier who decorates for Christmas all year, 2) there’s good in a beautiful but used thirty-something siren who marries men she should run from, couldn’t care less that her current mate is dead, and now has her sights on Junior–which he doesn’t mind, and 3) he and his 13-year-old daughter reach a new understanding as she helps him unravel the clues in this case–from a safe distance.
I’ve read so many crime novels, there aren’t a lot of new plots out there for me. What makes them intriguing is the characters, and Junior is fascinating. He’s not scholastically education, but has unlimited common sense and one of the sharpest brains for connecting the dots since Jack Reacher. He is self-educated, reading what he required to make sense of his world and it seemed to work. Here’s a sample:
“Fronts was a nightmare wrapped around a void; if you peeled his skin off in a spiral, as you might an apple, there’d be nothing underneath it. A little darkness, a few dead moths, some sour-smelling air. All of it gone in seoncds, dissipated like a musty odor when you open a closet door.”
Who writes like that? And having found the one person who does, how can you NOT read on?
If you’re looking for something more traditional to convince you this is a worthy read, he has that too. Throughout the book, Hallinan’s authorial voice is strong, worthy. Dialogue is crisp and interesting, always moves the plot forward and never wastes your time. The settings are well-defined, with the kind of detail that immerses you in their world. Nothing cookie cutter about this book.
Now get a copy and read!
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.