So here’s one for all my non-spooky mystery lovers (that’s a section of a bookstore if I’ve ever seen one): Crashed: A Junior Bender Mystery by Timothy Hallinan.
In book one of the Junior Bender mystery series, we meet Junior Bender himself, Los Angeles burglar and full-time criminal, ripping off a house and relieving it of a priceless Paul Klee. Can the man resist nicking him some diamonds? Does he have an estranged family with an ex-wife who wants to love and murder him and a daughter who, wise beyond her years, knows what he does and still loves him for it? Have we ticked off all the criminal-yet-good-guy cliches yet? Good, because Junior Bender is a thief with a heart of gold (or diamonds). Suckered into a position he can’t get out of and surrounded by several flesh-eating rottweilers, he makes a deal with the devil of Los Angeles. Very quickly, he’s wrapped up in the Hollywood we know and love, filled with mobsters, drug addicts, and the porn industry — specifically, people making certain a drug-addled ex-child movie star makes an explicit porno for the head honcho of the largest and most influential Los Angeles mob. Still with me?
Even less than halfway through this book at a breakneck speed, you start to relax a little and unclench your gut. Despite all the bad guys with their guns and dope, you intuitively know that you’re going to be okay because Junior Bender is one of the Good Guys. He’s a true detective hero and he’s going to deliver the answer to the mystery all wrapped in a pretty Tiffany blue box, complete with white silk ribbon and puppy dog.
If bloody, decapitated corpses in snow drifted fields are more your style, you may not appreciate Hallinan’s specific brand of mystery. I, for one, enjoy a mystery that makes me feel free of guilt to return to the sun dappled warmth of the real world after I’ve closed its covers.