Monday, January 19, 2015

Crashed by Timothy Hallinan - Book Review

In my now compulsive (and worthwhile) effort to read all of Timothy Hallinan's work, I arrived a Crashed (SoHo Crime, 2012, 356 pages, $9.99/6.15) the first entry in his Junior Bender series. Good detective and mystery books have a hook or a unique twist that captures a reader on page one, providing enough propulsive energy to first engage and then entertain throughout the entire book, and better still, series. Crashed accomplishes the goals with pace, humor, and a terrific, ideosyncratic character. Junior Bender is a criminal who provides his services to other criminals, people who can't (or won't) use the police or other establishment law enforcement to solve their problems. He's a skilled burglar without a criminal record (although the police appear to be aware of him and eager to catch him in the act), which makes him the ideal sort for all sorts of shady characters to use his services, making the development of future plots almost limitless. He's also witty, smart, and, in his own way, honest, working from a personal set of values which makes him reliable. While Junior Bender is wonderful, and Hallinan's output prodigious, don't look for Bender to continue forever. Hallinan probably won't drag out either of his currently running series beyond his ability to keep them fresh and original, always a problem with series writers. Meanwhile, enjoy both Bender and Hallinan's other very popular Poke Rafferty series.

The book opens with a terrific set piece introducing Bender in action. He's been hired to steal a modern painting from an ingeniously protected mansion owned by someone who wouldn't want the world to know about how and where he obtained it. Junior penetrates the house defenses, prepares to lift the painting, and discovers a hidden safe which he opens, triggering a camera he hadn't expected and couldn't trace back to its hard drive. As he approaches panic, the guard dogs start coming to tear him limb from limb....He ends up in the grip of a corrupt cop and a criminal go-between who force him into the kind of job he wouldn't otherwise consider taking. All this action lands him in the luxurious home of L.A. crime boss Trey Annunciato, reputed to have murdered her father to gain control of his empire. In her campaign to transition to legitimate businesses, Annunziato is planning to produce a block buster porn film starring Thistle Downing, a Lindsay Lohan clone, once the darling of every teenager in America, but now a drug dependent shadow of her former self. The remainder of the book involves Junior in extracting Thistle from her dilemma while dealing with dangers confronting him from all sides. Surrounded by a group of quirky film industry types, people with whom Hallinan is quite familiar, having spent a first career in the film industry, Bender manages to use all his skills to juggle a lot of balls in the air and keep the reader turning the pages.

Timothy Hallinan

Tim Hallinan has chosen full-time writing after what's described as “years of working in Hollywood, television, and the music industry,” which tells me less than I want to know about this very productive and talented writer. He apparently divides his time between southern California and Bangkok, Thailand, the setting of the Poke Rafferty series. Overflowing with insights, he's also an active member of Facebook, where his posts are clearly his own, not the output of some publishing house “social media” flak tasked with looking and sounding like Tim. If you like this, or one of his other books, friend him on Facebook yourself, and get to know him. He's also in the habit of including, in his acknowledgements section, a list of the music he was listening to with each book. This little service has served to introduce me to lots of music I've enjoyed while writing my blog. His web site contains an interesting blog in which he writes about his writing process. He's also included a lengthy section he calls Finish Your Novel designed to help nascent writers with their own progress. It's interesting and useful. If you find you like Hallinan as a writer, why not discover him as a person, too. I have, and it's been quite worthwhile.

Crashed by Timothy Hallinan ((SoHo Crime, 2012, 356 pages, $9.99/6.15) is the opening novel in Timothy Hallinan's series about a career burglar who solves problems for other criminals. It's written with humor and wit along with a driving narrative that keeps the reader engaged throughout. While I can't read a Hallinan book in one sitting, each of his novels I've read has successfully distracted me from doing much else until I complete it. I bought the book and read it in trade paperback. I was listening to Ella Fitzgerald's “Complete Songbooks” on Spotify while writing this review.