Let me start by saying that I expected to be disappointed by Timothy Hallinan’s new novel. Actually, “disappointed” isn’t the right word when you are describing the work of Hallinan, who is seemingly incapable of writing badly. It’s just that I love his Poke Rafferty books, a series where you can find out something about a place (Bangkok, in this instance) that you probably will never visit, and learn something new and different in each and every volume.
Accordingly, when I heard that CRASHED was going to introduce a new character named Junior Bender and be set in Los Angeles, I set myself up for disappointment. And what happened? Disappointment never showed up; reading the book was like expecting your blind date to be a nightmare, and then discovering in a few short seconds (or, in this case, an opening paragraph) that you’ve found the love of your life.
"Once you start reading, there is no good place to stop, other than at the end of the book’s last paragraph. There’s plenty of humor, lots of action and great character development. And did I mention that Hallinan has some terrific turns of phrase?"
Hallinan allows you to get up close and personal with Junior from the jump by utilizing a first-person narrative that lets you get into the man’s head, which in this case is a good thing. Junior is a burglar, whose services are in great demand by career criminals and the like. He is well-liked because he is very good at what he does and is, to the extent possible, trustworthy. The former is demonstrated early on when Junior is tasked with stealing an extremely well-guarded painting in a vignette that is worth the price of admission to the book all by itself. The latter is demonstrated when…well, actually, that’s not entirely accurate; what is demonstrated is that Junior is a burglar with some scruples, if not necessarily a heart. He is retained by a crime lord who wants to convert the family criminal enterprise into a legitimate business. To do so will require a large cash infusion.
In order to acquire such a huge sum, a former television child star named Thistle Downing has been hired to do an adult film. Thistle’s career trajectory rode high and came crashing down several years previously. Her money has all but disappeared; now, downtrodden and drugged out, she needs the cash that this endeavor, however sleazy, will bring to her. Junior’s job is to make sure that Thistle shows up on the set every day, showered, shaved and tap-dancing. Someone, though, seems determined that this movie will not be made. And Junior isn’t so sure that it ought to be produced, either. He soon discovers that he is dealing with some fairly dangerous characters who would not think twice about leaving him looking like a highway oil slick. Then, of course, there are people who got him involved in the caper to begin with, not to mention his employer, the crime boss who wants to go straight (or at least less crooked).
Junior manages to shoot the curl, something that you can pretty much expect from page one. But with Hallinan, it is the journey rather than the destination that matters --- although the destination isn’t bad either --- and the multifaceted Junior is an amiable, personable and occasionally dangerous companion to guide you through the cesspool that lies in wait just off of the L.A. Freeway.
Once you start reading, there is no good place to stop, other than at the end of the book’s last paragraph. There’s plenty of humor, lots of action and great character development. And did I mention that Hallinan has some terrific turns of phrase? I bookmarked CRASHED all over the place on my eReader. Read it, fall in love (or have a bromance) with Junior, and wait patiently. More Junior Bender is on the way, and very soon.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 7, 2012