Edgar finalist Hallinan’s suspenseful, well-crafted seventh Junior Bender mystery (after 2016’s Fields Where They Lay) finds the L.A. burglar/investigator, who has worked on the wrong side of the law for more than 20 years, desperate for money to help his girlfriend, Ronnie Bigelow. Ronnie’s two-year-old son, Eric, has been taken from her by the boy’s father, “a New Jersey mob doctor,” and Junior needs major funds to pull off his plan to reunite Eric with his mother. In desperation, he agrees to break into a house last occupied by the late Daisy Horton, a nonagenarian known as the “Cruella de Vil of fading Los Angeles gentility,” to retrieve a doll for an unidentified client. Junior comes up empty, as does the rival seeking the same item he encounters in the creepy Horton house. Junior’s lack of success, combined with the murder of the other burglar shortly after she leaves the premises, leads Junior to seek the truth behind his commission and its connection with what he did find—rare first editions, including an autographed copy of Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Hallinan’s top-notch prose and plotting are reminiscent of Lawrence Block and Elmore Leonard. Agent: Bob Mecoy, Bob Mecoy Literary. (Nov.)
Finalist for the 2019 Nero Award
Finalist for the 2019 Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery Novel
Praise for Nighttown
"Exceedingly funny . . . this one's good for what ails you."
—Marilyn Stasio, New York Times
"If you enjoy the ironic wit and criminal adventures of Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr, then you’ll want to read Timothy Hallinan’s Nighttown. Junior Bender is one of my favorite fictional felons and Hallinan is a writer with the kind of heart and healthy cynicism that I admire."
—Carole E. Barrowman, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
"Hallinan’s top-notch prose and plotting are reminiscent of Lawrence Block and Elmore Leonard."
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Nothing puts a smile on my face or chuckle in my heart like a new Junior Bender book. Always fresh and ever insightful, Hallinan delivers pleasure reading in its purest form.”
—Tim Tigner, author of Pushing Brilliance
"Everybody's go-to burglar in LA, takes on another job that doesn't smell right—it fairly reeks of talcum powder—and lives to regret it early and often . . . Highly readable."
"[Nighttown] packs an unexpected wallop, which resonates long after the last (and highly satisfying) sentence is read."
"A not-to-miss mystery . . . Hallinan is easily one of the most entertaining crime writers in the business today."
—New York Journal of Books
"Are you a fan of Donald Westlake's caper books, or the first series from Bethany Maines with its side-splitting moments among makeup experts who ride on the wild side? Here's what you've been waiting for: exquisitely plotted action and twists, with conversation and commentary so dryly funny that those pee-proof panties advertised on TV should be sold with the book in some regions."
"Tightly plotted and fast-paced . . . Nighttown is the real deal."
"This novel was extremely intriguing, suspenseful, and mysterious. It is highly recommended reading."
—The Gumshoe Review
"Humor is a hallmark of the Junior Bender series, and this latest title is no exception."
Praise for Fields Where They Lay
A Kirkus & Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A BookPage Top Pick
“Burglar Junior Bender may just be our favorite literary PI.”
“West Coast fun for the noir at heart.”
“Slick sleuthing, a touching romance and several good laughs.”
“Comparisons to Raymond Chandler and Donald Westlake are totally deserved and should give you a clue as to whether you’ll like this book as much as I did.”
—Raleigh News & Observer
“Hallinan deserves to win an Edgar for his ingeniously plotted, often hilarious sixth Junior Bender novel.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Nobody does comic mystery with an edge better than Hallinan.”
—Booklist, Starred Review
Junior Bender, everybody's go-to burglar in LA, takes on another job that doesn't smell right—it fairly reeks of talcum powder—and lives to regret it early and often.
Eager to finance the kidnapping of his live-in girlfriend Ronnie Bigelow's 2-year-old son, Eric, from her ex, Junior would love to bank the $50,000 he's been offered to steal an antique doll from Horton House, due for demolition following the death of its long-bedridden owner, Daisy Horton, the Witch of Windsor Street. But he doesn't trust his anonymous client, whom he dubs the Bride of Plastic Man. And the job turns out to be anything but routine. Junior can't find the doll anywhere he searches in Horton House. Instead, he runs into Lumia White Antelope, a fellow burglar, who's found the doll but not the treasure that was presumably hidden inside. When Lumia is shot to death by the people waiting to pick her up, Junior vows to track down the client who hired her. That's easier said than done, even for someone as well-connected in the Los Angeles underworld as Junior. Although crooked buddies like fence Stinky Tetweiler and Eaglet, the professional killer who's the sole proprietor of One-Shot Solutions, are more than willing to help if the price is right, Junior's meetings with Lumia's handler, Itsy Winkle, and Hollywood producer Jake Whelan don't amount to much more than a lot of huffing and puffing on both sides, and his most promising lead, a talent agent who can identify the Bride of Plastic Man, evaporates when she's murdered too. Working every angle, including a tip of the deerstalker to Sherlock Holmes, Junior eventually manages to unearth the truth, if not justice or the American way.
Highly readable but relatively weightless, as if Hallinan (Fools' River, 2017, etc.) had padded a short story out to novel length by spinning loop after agreeable loop of his hero's woolly asides, reflections, and professional apothegms.
Junior Bender knows better, but he can't resist the $50,000 offered to retrieve a porcelain doll from an abandoned Los Angeles house, slated for demolition after the death of its reclusive owner. His long CV lists his profession as "property reallocation"; friends call him a burglar. Junior soon meets one of those old friends, who has been dispatched on the same mission. They are both unsuccessful, and she ends up dead. Junior unselfishly dedicates himself to tracking down all the culprits pro bono. There's a passel of characters, all cartoonish: anonymous client Bride of Plastic Man sports an unforgettable orange wig; professional killer Eaglet is the proprietor of One-Shot Solutions; Anime Wong can do no wrong with a name like that. It would seem that Junior likes to read on stakeouts—there are enough literary references for a bibliography. Margaret Millar, William Gaddis, Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, and especially Arthur Conan Doyle all get a shout-out. VERDICT This seventh series installment from Hallinan (In Fields Where They Lay), a sort of West Coast Damon Runyon who has been short-listed for about every mystery genre prize, displays his ability to spin the merest gossamer into an engaging, flip, 300-plus-page novel that goes down very smoothly.—Bob Lunn, Kansas City, MO