“Little Elvises,” by Timothy Hallinan, is his second Junior Bender novel. In “Little Elvises” Hallinan gives his professional thief two mysteries to solve. First Junior is “gently” encouraged by a member of law enforcement to find out who murdered a sleazy tabloid reporter. If he doesn’t clear the main suspect, he may find himself in jail. While working mystery number one, Junior learns the daughter of his landlady is missing. Ultimately, he volunteers to find his land lady‘s missing daughter and along the way Junior meets a femme fatale, an old school mobster and a hit man who is into self-mutilation.
I found him believable. I will admit that it did take me time to get into the story. At first, I wasn’t sure if I liked Junior or not, but as the pace of the story picked up Junior’s character became more defined. I found myself liking him after reading the scene where he agrees to find the daughter of his property owner.
Junior is witty, clever and good at what he does, Hallinan tells us. Unfortunately, for a book about a professional thief there isn’t a lot of breaking or entering. This is not a ‘how to be a thief’ book, but more of a drama qua comedy that features a thief as the main character. Still, there is one key scene where Junior performs a little B&E and it is interesting and full of suspense.
The main story revolves around Junior’s reluctant investigation into the murder of a tabloid report. Along the way, we learn that the reporter has a reputation for finding things out about celebrities and blackmailing them, cash in exchange for his silence.
Hallinan knows how to create vivid characters and everyone has a backstory. Ronnie, the aforementioned femme fatale, is the widow of the murdered reporter, but that doesn’t stop Junior from engaging in witty dialog and a relationship with her. I don’t think people actually engage in banter like that in real-life, but it makes for great reading.
The author could have easily slipped into farce, but he doesn’t. He walks the very edge of it, but doesn’t slip over. The only character I thought a little over done was Fronts, the pill popping, self-mutilating hit man.
The suspect Junior needs to clear is a record producer from back in the day. Hw was known for creating wholesome acts, in the style of Elvis Presley, but with a little less star wattage. This is obviously a topic that the author is extremely well versed in he goes into some depth describing how the producer found and cultivated his young stars.
Naturally, for that era there is mob involvement, which adds another layer of menace to the story. When the author is detailing some of the mobsters involved and how they influenced the music and entertainment industry of the time it does cause the story to drag a tad and at times it can confuse the reader.
The only part of the story I felt truly bogged the story down was Junior in contact with his daughter and ex-wife. It was written to add dimension to Junior, but all three characters come off a little stilted, especially the running gag of Junior not reading his daughter’s research paper.
The second mystery feels a little superfluous, at times. Junior makes an assumption about the disappearance. The “twist” isn’t really a big surprise if you were paying attention.
Overall, I liked the “peek behind the curtain” for the music industry. In addition, there were a few moments of solid humor in the book that made me chuckle. Well-developed characters and the snappy dialog kept the pace moving. Slow, in places, but still a fun book to read.
I enjoyed the book and I will look for the other Junior Bender books.
Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.