As Timothy Hallinan writes in an Author’s Note at the conclusion of Crashed, the first novel in his series featuring the career burglar Junior Bender, criminals are “intrinsically interesting because they’ve rejected the standard set of values and, since we all need values of some kind, they’ve invented their own.” The novel proves that point.
Crashed (Junior Bender #1) by Timothy Hallinan
@@@@ (4 out of 5)
Junior Bender, still well shy of forty, has been a career criminal for seventeen years. He has never been arrested. His ex-wife, Kathy, takes a dim view of his profession, so he is permitted to see his twelve-year-old daughter only sporadically. Junior’s career choice allows him to work only a couple of days per month. With so much time on his hands, he reads a lot, seemingly about almost every conceivable subject. He is what pedants call an autodidact and the rest of us call self-taught. Junior is, as you might suppose, a very smart guy, and he talks a lot — virtually nonstop — like those fictional hard-boiled Southern California detectives of yore. All this helps to underline Hallinan’s thesis that criminals are “intrinsically interesting.”
Career criminals, good and bad
When Junior breaks into a luxurious home to steal a valuable painting by the Swiss-German artist Paul Klee, he barely manages to escape with his life (and the painting), only to discover that he has been set up. Through a convoluted series of connections that you have to read about in detail to understand, Junior finds himself forced to undertake an assignment for “a third-generation hood and the heir to the Valley’s most diversified crime family.” She is the producer of a series of three planned pornographic films that are to star a now drug-riddled and poverty-stricken former sitcom star. The catch is that somebody doesn’t want the films to be made — and Junior is assigned to protect the would-be star from being kidnapped or murdered and ensure that the films can be produced. With a set-up like this, it’s hard to lose. Naturally, a great many further complications ensue, and the story is full of surprises. Call the book a thriller or a novel of suspense. It works.
Crashed is at times a very funny book. For example, Hallinan describes one of the tough guys around the mafia queen as bulging “in all the right places. . . He was wearing black leather gloves as though to conceal the tiny biceps in his fingers.” The novel is also just plain witty. Writing about former screen stars, Hallinan speculates that “I think Hollywood’s continuing fascination with zombies comes from the fact that there are so many of them among us. They look the same, they sound the same, but they’ve been unplugged. The thing that made us want to look at them, listen to them, it’s gone. They’re still here, but they’re just waiting to be embalmed.”
About the author
Timothy Hallinan divides his time between Santa Monica, California, and Bangkok. He has written three series of novels involving crime, two of them set in Los Angeles and one in Bangkok. Crashed was the first of the Junior Bender series; there are five books to date.
For further reading
I’ve reviewed all of the Junior Bender novels to date. For a list and links to my reviews, go to Timothy Hallinan’s Junior Bender series of very funny comic crime novels.
Also, you’ll find this and dozens of other excellent novels at 5 top Los Angeles mysteries and thrillers (plus lots of runners-up).
If your taste runs more to genre fiction, check out: