When a crook is burgled, it’s not a good day for anybody.
Usually, Wattles [no first name] the contractor is the one breaking the law. He’s perfected a system of murder for hire that involves something like six degrees of separation between the trigger man and himself. So when someone breaks into his house and steals his list of “disconnects”—people who call people who call people who shoot people—he’s both surprised and annoyed. But not too annoyed to summon Junior Bender (Little Elvises, 2013, etc.) and offer him $10,000 for the safe return of the list. Junior has an even more compelling reason for being interested in the case. It’s clear from the burglar’s methods that he was none other than Herbie Mott, the master thief who taught Junior everything he knew. By the time he catches up with Herbie, however, it’s too late to ask him anything about the theft, because he’s suffered a fatal heart attack right in the middle of being tortured by experts. It’s clear that the other disconnects are in danger, though it’ll be equally clear to fans of the series that Junior won’t care nearly as much about what happens to any of them. And a good thing, too, because Herbie may have given Junior a bum steer from beyond the grave. Ruben Ghorbani, the knee-breaker Herbie assumed would kill him if anybody did, may have found Jesus. That would leave the field wide open, and since practically everybody Junior runs into is a criminal of one sort or another, this job could take quite a while.
As usual, Hallinan devotes such loving attention to a host of minor characters, all framed by Junior’s deadpan narrative, that the whodunit is the least important ingredient in this shaggy, overstuffed caper.