When it comes to crime fiction, writers generally choose between telling their story through the eyes of either the criminal being pursued or the one primarily responsible for catching him. Or occasionally, generally via alternating chapters, readers are offered both points of view - an approach that works remarkably well to create and maintain a high level of tension that peaks when pursuer and pursued finally come together. Timothy Hallinan's new Junior Bender series, of which Crashed is book number one, takes the first approach.
Junior Bender is one damn fine burglar, a thirty-six-year-old man who has been successfully breaking into houses since he was fourteen without ever having been caught. When it comes to breaking and entering, Junior is a pro's pro. He only works two or three times a month, never gets greedy, and knows exactly what he will be able to move safely on the street. So when a cop is waiting for him as he exits his latest job, Junior is truly and honestly surprised. He is even more surprised to learn that he has been set up by criminals every bit as street smart as him, criminals willing to blackmail him into doing something for them he wants nothing to do with.
Trey Annunziato, a notorious Los Angeles mobster, wants Junior to work as a private investigator on the set of a pornographic movie the mob is bankrolling. Someone wants badly to make sure that the film never happens, and each day lost is costing the mob boss almost $25,000 in sunk costs. When Junior learns that the star of the film is the dope-addled, grown-up version of one of America's most beloved child television stars of the previous decade, he finds himself sympathizing with the aims of the saboteur he supposed to stop. What is a decent criminal to do?
Readers familiar with Timothy Hallinan's Poke Rafferty thrillers (the Bangkok books) know that the author fills his thrillers with well-developed characters that are as much fun as the tight spots his heroes get themselves into and out of. If Crashed is any indication, the Junior Bender series continues that Hallinan tradition. Junior has a network of friends he can call upon when he needs a special skill or just another pair of hands, and unfortunately for him, he has at least one sworn enemy in the LAPD who would love nothing better than to put Junior away for a long, long time - if he cannot coerce Junior into sharing the wealth with him first.
Bottom Line: Crashed is a fun way to begin what promises to be another great crime series from a trusted author. This one is a wild ride that, despite the overall sadness of the story it tells, will keep the reader chuckling throughout. Junior Bender is just that kind of guy - and, frankly, it's a lot of fun rooting for a bad guy with a heart.
(Review Copy provided by Publisher)