Timothy Hallinan, King Maybe: A Junior Bender Mystery
Soho Crime, 2016
Junior Bender is in a large mansion-ish home in LA, preparing to steal a very rare stamp…when the homeowner, who happens to be a contract killer, returns and very nearly traps him. This kicks off a story that involves Junior's relationship with his wife and daughter, his daughter's problems with her boy friend, Junior's issues with his current flame, his problems with his fence, a nasty Hollywood mogul, an exceptional artist, and more.
While the narrative occasionally drags, the story is well-conceived and everything holds together (and, no it's not all connected). The climactic scene, in which Junior manages to turn the tables on a number of his adversaries and manages to see justice partially done--he makes that justice complete later on--is extraordinary.
Junior is an engaging character, and Ronnie, the current flame, matches him in likeability and in inventiveness in a crisis. I hope we see her again (indeed, she might deserve her own book). The title of the book is brilliant, and gets explained. Hallinan makes the LA setting and the milieu of the studios characters in their own right. (For a book presumably written in 2014/2015, there's a great Trump reference. Also a great Hitchcock quote: "When someone asked [Hitchcock] how he kept his calm when he was confronted with production crises, difficult actors, uncooperative weather, and the light-blocking, soul-sucking bulk of producers, he said, "I try to live my life as though it happened three years ago.' " Words to live by.) A hit with me.