So, here’s the deal. Junior Bender chose to accept a cockamamie proposition to rob a deserted house for entirely too much money. Even knowing someone might try to kill him for taking the job. Junior and his girlfriend, Ronnie Bigelow, “were planning an operation to kidnap her two-year-old son from his father, a New Jersey mob doctor, . . . an expensive proposition.” Yes, consummate burglar Junior Bender is off and running on another wild and crazy caper. In this hilarious crime novel, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and in the end you’ll wonder what that devilish author, Timothy Hallinan, will come up with next.
Nighttown (Junior Bender #7) by Timothy Hallinan (2018) 385 pages
@@@@ (4 out of 5)
A legendary burglar, a beautiful hitwoman, and a seven-foot killer
In this seventh entry in the Junior Bender mystery series, the principals in Junior’s cast of unlikely criminals all figure in the story:
- Louie the Lost, the failed getaway driver with no sense of direction, now a “telegraph” who sells information of special use to criminals;
- Stinky Tetwiler, the morbidly obese fence with a revolving cast of gay Filipino houseboys;
- Fourteen-year-old Anime Wong and Lilli, life partners in crime who never met a website they couldn’t hack;
- Eaglet, an accomplished and very attractive young hitwoman; and, of course,
- Irwin Dressler, “the most powerful man on either side of the law in Southern California: a mob boss who had never been arrested; a financier who had started several of California’s major banks for money laundering purposes and then taken them straight. . . [S]ure, he’d had some people killed, but in some cases it was a public service.”
Now, in Nighttown, we meet Itsy Winkle, a seven-foot woman with Marfan Syndrome who is a broker for burglars. She lives in a darkened and oversized home with stuffed cats on every surface. Oh, and everybody’s terrified of her because she kills people. Will Itsy figure in Junior’s further adventures? We can only hope.
A supremely talented writer has created this very funny crime novel
In one noteworthy exchange, young Anime Wong questions Eaglet. “‘So, your job, I mean, what you do,'” Anime said. “‘What are the requirements?'”
The hitwoman answers, “‘A steady hand and a profound indifference.'”
If you’re getting the impression that the Junior Bender novels are contrived to trigger laughter, you’re on the right track. However, Timothy Hallinan is a supremely talented writer, not a standup comedian. His prose often sings, and the story has a full complement of emotional highs and lows.
In a Starred Review in Publishers Weekly, one reviewer wrote about this book, “Hallinan’s top-notch prose and plotting are reminiscent of Lawrence Block and Elmore Leonard.” And the New York Times declared the novel “Exceedingly funny—this one’s good for what ails you.”
For additional reading
To access my reviews of the whole Junior Bender series, go to Timothy Hallinan’s Junior Bender series of comic crime novels. You’ll also find Junior on My 17 favorite funny novels (plus 17 others).
Also, you’ll find this and dozens of other excellent novels at 5 top Los Angeles mysteries and thrillers (plus lots of runners-up).
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