Junior Bender, everybody’s go-to burglar in LA, takes on another job that doesn’t smell right—it fairly reeks of talcum powder—and lives to regret it early and often.
Eager to finance the kidnapping of his live-in girlfriend Ronnie Bigelow’s 2-year-old son, Eric, from her ex, Junior would love to bank the $50,000 he’s been offered to steal an antique doll from Horton House, due for demolition following the death of its long-bedridden owner, Daisy Horton, the Witch of Windsor Street. But he doesn’t trust his anonymous client, whom he dubs the Bride of Plastic Man. And the job turns out to be anything but routine. Junior can’t find the doll anywhere he searches in Horton House. Instead, he runs into Lumia White Antelope, a fellow burglar, who’s found the doll but not the treasure that was presumably hidden inside. When Lumia is shot to death by the people waiting to pick her up, Junior vows to track down the client who hired her. That’s easier said than done, even for someone as well-connected in the Los Angeles underworld as Junior. Although crooked buddies like fence Stinky Tetweiler and Eaglet, the professional killer who’s the sole proprietor of One-Shot Solutions, are more than willing to help if the price is right, Junior’s meetings with Lumia’s handler, Itsy Winkle, and Hollywood producer Jake Whelan don’t amount to much more than a lot of huffing and puffing on both sides, and his most promising lead, a talent agent who can identify the Bride of Plastic Man, evaporates when she’s murdered too. Working every angle, including a tip of the deerstalker to Sherlock Holmes, Junior eventually manages to unearth the truth, if not justice or the American way.
Highly readable but relatively weightless, as if Hallinan (Fools’ River, 2017, etc.) had padded a short story out to novel length by spinning loop after agreeable loop of his hero’s woolly asides, reflections, and professional apothegms.