You can depend on three things when you pick up any one of the first seven books in the Junior Bender series. They’re action-packed, full of surprises, and often hilarious as well. But that’s not the case with the eighth in the series, Rock of Ages. Oh, it’s funny from time to time. And it’s a joy to read, because Timothy Hallinan’s fresh and engaging style keeps the eye moving across the page. However, the plot of the novel seems merely to provide a framework for Hallinan to write a book about a rock and roll tour and fill in the backstory of one of his recurring characters. The result is a story that, unlike the earlier entries in the series, can’t be called a thriller. A mystery, yes, but no thriller.
Rock and roll and a gang of criminals
Just to be clear, this novel is not related in any way to the Broadway musical and film of the same title despite its subject matter. “Rock of Ages” is the name of a rock and roll concert tour organized by a group of four criminals. They’ve persuaded several second- and third-rate rock-and-roll bands of the 1960s and 70s to come back together for a farewell tour all across the Pacific West. Naturally, the crooks’ objective is to steal the money. Unfortunately, they’ve badly miscalculated. To finance the operation, they’d borrowed $250,000 from the notorious Irwin Dressler, the crime boss of Los Angeles. And NOBODY steals from Irwin Dressler.
Rock of Ages (Junior Bender #8) by Timothy Hallinan (2022) 337 pages ★★★★☆
A private investigator who’s really a professional burglar
Enter Junior Bender. As any reader of the earlier novels in the series is well aware, Junior is an A-list professional burglar. He specializes in high-end artwork, antiques, and other lucrative loot. And he’s never been caught. Unfortunately, the superior intellect that has enabled Junior to be so successful in his chosen career has caught the eye of Irwin Dressler. For some time now, the aging crime kingpin has been turning to Junior to investigate other crooks who are, in the old man’s opinion, misbehaving. And Irwin Dressler knows the idiots behind this rock and roll tour are up to no good. So, although Junior has been looking forward to a long weekend with his 19-year-old daughter, he’s got no choice. He’ll have to drag her along as he peers under the rocks of the Rock of Ages Tour.
Naturally, the gang of four at the Lafayette Theater is not happy that Junior has come to look over their shoulders. And not only do most of them pack heat but the leader of the bunch, Yoshi Perlman, has brought along a murderous thug who seems intent on killing Junior in a colorfully gruesome manner. And when one of the musicians on the tour is killed by a stage set that falls on him from above, the situation becomes not just complicated but downright dangerous.
About the author
Timothy Hallinan (1949-) divides his time between Santa Monica, California, and Bangkok, where he set a series of thrillers featuring travel writer Poke Rafferty. He is also the author of seven novels about a well-read LA private investigator named Simeon Grist in addition to the eight Junior Bender novels to date. Before turning to writing full-time, Hallinan was a corporate consultant and helped create public television educational websites.
For more reading
You’ll find all the books in this series at Timothy Hallinan’s Junior Bender series of comic crime novels.
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