@@@@ (4 out of 5)
Junior Bender is the most ethical burglar you’ll ever meet (assuming you ever meet burglars). You’re just as likely to find him declining to steal something he knows the owner truly loves, because he really doesn’t want to hurt anybody. Mostly he steals from other criminals.
Junior operates in Los Angeles in a comic universe populated by such characters as Stinky Tetweiler, “the San Fernando Valley’s top premium-swag fence,” and Louie the Lost, an erstwhile getaway driver who once went the wrong direction following a heist and now makes his way through life as a source of sensitive information of special interest to crooks. Louie’s the guy who asserts that “Kings . . . are just crooks with better hats.”
King Maybe, a character at the center of the story in Hallinan’s novel of the same name, is “the most powerful man in Hollywood.” He’s a producer with options on every worthwhile project in sight, and he sits on them to keep everyone else in suspense. He’s also a thoroughly rotten SOB. Junior is forced to deal with King Maybe as a way to avoid being killed by several hitmen, most of whom appear to be pursuing him because he has stolen a postage stamp worth a quarter-million dollars from their boss, who is himself a hitman. (No, that doesn’t make sense to me, either.)
There’s no point summing up the plot of King Maybe. It’s a cockamamie story, of course. But it’s very, very funny.
Timothy Hallinan, author of the Junior Bender series, has an unsurpassed way with words. Here he is describing Junior’s one-night accommodations in flight from a hitman: “. . .the Dew Drop Inn was a dump, worthy of three stars in The Masochist’s Guide to Sleepless Nights. The carpet, which had apparently been shampooed with petroleum jelly, made an alarming little blown-kiss sound every time I lifted my shoe. The wallpaper was in the midst of a long and acrimonious divorce with the walls; it had developed big, unsettling blisters, as though something gelatinous, something straight out of H. P. Lovecraft, were trying to bloom its way through.” And here he is commenting on a neighborhood where the Dew Drop Inn would never have been built: “We were in a neighborhood where even the weeds were expensive.”
Timothy Hallinan has written nineteen novels to date. King Maybe is the fifth of the six novels in his Junior Bender series. In two other series, he features an L.A. private eye (Simeon Grist) and a travel writer living in Bangkok (Poke Rafferty), where Hallinan spends half of each year.
I reviewed Crashed, the first of the books in the Junior Bender series, here: A career criminal narrates this clever and funny mystery. For links to my reviews of other series of crime novels, see 48 excellent mystery and thriller series.