Junior Bender is driving along the street with his teenage daughter Rina, when she pops the question he’s been dreading. She asks what he does for a living. Bender, a career thief, specializing in high value thefts for underworld denizens, gulps, considers his obligations, and decides to answer her questions honestly while spending the weekend engaged in his profession.
One of the delights of any new Tim Hallinan novel is that you don’t need to have read the preceding novels in the series to catch up with the characters. In Rock of Ages (Soho Crime Jun 07, 2022 | 336 Pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 | ISBN 9781641292184) we find protagonist Junior Bender, with his teenage daughter Rina at a legacy rock concert featuring bands that might have been well known fifty years ago. As a brick wall collapses, a musician is killed and the stage is set for Junior to track down the murderer, protect his daughter, continue his storied career as a master thief, and provide plenty of thrills and laughter for his legion of readers.
The plot of Rock of Ages once again takes Junior into the friendly but risky world of uber gangster, the not quite retired, elderly and still dangerous Irwin Dressler, who remains dangerous despite being completely charmed by the ingenuous, smart-as-a-whip Rina. Dressler wants his investment in a dicy legacy rock tour which he has helped finance for four aging fringy rock promoters/gangsters. The final concerts take place in a fifty year old movie palace, no longer the great venue where major Hollywood blockbusters had their world premieres. connoisseurs of aging movie theaters and fading rockers will find this lively novel particularly delightful, as will Hallinan’s fans as well as those not yet familiar with his work.
Two of Tim Hallinan’s series, Junior Bender and Poke Rafferty often mix first rate detective fiction with the problems inherent with fathering teenage girls and being a responsible family member while also engaging in a dangerous occupation. Achieving such a balance in a conventional occupation remains challenging enough. Succeeding within a life of danger and possible death creates tensions and risks that feed the imagination of hungry fiction readers. Doing so with humor and wit turns Rock of Ages into vintage Hallinan. As always, he mixes vivid descriptions, twisted plot-lines, and quirky characters to serve up a delightful frolic through the shady Hollywood underworld.
Timothy Hallinan lives in Southern California, where has based two of the three protagonists for his quite different series of novels. He has received high critical praise for his three series as well as increasingly widespread recognition for his Poke Rafferty series, set in Bangkok, where he once lived a portion of each year, and his Junior Bender series set in LA and surroundings. He has also served as a consultant to the movie and television industry on a range of issues. For more information, look here.
Rock of Ages (A Junior Bender Mystery) by Timothy Hallinan will be published on June 7th, and is available from all the usual (Amazon, Target, and bookstores everywhere). I found the book to be filled with good laughs, sharp insights, and believable relationships surrounding revealing insights into the sadness of aging rock groups, the decline of once great movie theaters, and the terrors of fatherhood. It does not require prior reading in the series to enjoy, although I recommend all three series as worthy of your attention, if you have not encountered Hallinan’s work before.
A digital copy Rock of Ages was provided to me by the publisher in return for an unbiased reading and possible review.