In Hallinan’s Los Angeles, where everyone leans on everyone else, investigator/thief Junior Bender gets leaned on good.
Everyone knows that Junior didn’t pull the Hammer job. Junior (Crashed, 2012) doesn’t carry a gun, and the whole job wasn’t his style. Still, Detective Paulie DiGaudio darkly intimates, Junior could end up in the frame if he’s not willing to do a little favor for Paulie’s Uncle Vincent. Like Junior, Vincent, a former Philadelphia music promoter who specialized in grooming Elvis Presley wannabes a generation ago, is suspected of a violent crime. Unlike Junior, Vincent is definitely a live suspect, since he’d threatened to kill low-rent British journalist Derek Bigelow over a little spot of blackmail shortly before Bigelow conveniently turned up dead on Hollywood Boulevard. Now, Vincent has troubles, which means that Paulie has troubles, which means that Junior has troubles. But the search for Bigelow’s killer, which will bring Junior up against some people considerably more hard-bitten than the sometime-thief, isn’t the extent of his troubles. Marge Enderby, his landlady of the month—for the past three years, Junior’s been moving from one dead-end motel to the next to keep ahead of anyone who might be looking for him—wants him to find her daughter Doris, who shows signs of having run off with Lorne Henry Pivensey, aka Lemuel Huff, a man whose earlier experience with vanished women isn’t at all encouraging. Junior, who tiptoes reluctantly into both cases prepared for the worst, is pleasantly surprised when Bigelow’s widow, Ronnie, returns his interest with interest.
Versatile Hallinan (The Fear Artist, 2012, etc.) provides a wealth of seamy types, past and present, and a thousand hard-boiled similes for his second-string Philip Marlowe.