Junior Bender really does not like Christmas. Give him a while and he might tell you why, but it’s a really long and sad story.
Which makes it rather ironic that his latest “job” — read “being forced to help an LA crook by another LA crook, because he’s too smart for his own good” — is taking place during the lead-up to that holiday.
Junior Bender is one smart thief — maybe a little too smart for his own good. It’s not that he over analyzes situations, or over-thinks his plans. It’s just that other LA crooks recognize how his mind works, and try to get him to do their thinking FOR them. And sometimes they even get him to do their crimes, not always voluntarily.
So when what should be a straightforward burglary turns deadly dangerous, it isn’t too long before Junior finds himself at the mercy, and in front of the guns (and baseball bats) of some highly suspicious characters.
Some time ago, Bangkok-based travel writer Poke Rafferty had the misfortune of encountering a truly evil and terrifying man. This Fear Artist really put Poke through the wringer, trying to get something from him, and almost succeeded in turning his adopted city against him to get it.
Poke walked away from the ensuing conflagration a sadder, if not wiser man. Also a richer man, thanks to the Fear Artist’s considerable coffers, though he’s found that money brings its own unique problems. He’s come to care for that man’s badly-damaged daughter, Treasure, as well, which brings a new set of challenges all its’ own.
But if he thought he’d be getting out from under the Fear Artist’s curse so easily, he was wrong. Read more…
Why him? Well, maybe it’s because — after solving three really jawdropping cases — he’s the one to go to with something that needs some oversight. On the other hand, he is just around the corner from where the crime’s been committed. Hopefully it’ll just be some open and shut thing, and he can get back to campfires, smores, and watching his teenage daughter text her boyfriend all day.
That never seems to be Stevens’ luck, though, and this “errand” runs true to form.
Meet Serge. Serge A. Storms. He’s a gregarious, fun-loving fellow who fancies himself an amateur expert of Florida’s history and wildlife. He’s also a barely-contained psychotic who kills people in gruesomely inventive ways when they offend his sense of right and wrong, to say nothing of public decorum.
For years, now, he and his permanently-baked travel partner, Coleman, have been riding up and down the length and breadth of the Sunshine State looking for fun and fascination, and occasionally making new friends. One such friend is legal ace Brook Campanella, who’s made the glorious mistake of falling for Serge’s homicidal charms a time or two. She’s also on the trail of a group of people who make Serge look like a toothless kitten by comparison.
And that, my friends, would be lawyers — specifically the ones representing banks eager to foreclose on the houses of the poor, the needy, and the gullible.
Ah, Bangkok. Only there could a couple teenagers trying to buy a used iPhone from a dodgy street vendor wind up being chased by killers for what’s on the phone.
That’s the kind of city this is, though: a grinning, sweet monster that alternates between bedeviling her children and then trying to save them — maybe a little too late.
The good news is that one of the children is Miaow, who — as readers of Timothy Hallinan’s Poke Rafferty books — can take care of herself, especially in Bangkok’s labyrinth of back streets and abandoned buildings.
Better news is that her adoptive father, Poke, is well-adept at dealing with strange and potentially-deadly situations — especially when they threaten the safety of his now-growing family. Having just come out the richer for having dealt with a well-connected, genuine villain in his last, harrowing adventure (The Fear Artist), he’s not kindly disposed to someone else trying to turn his world upside down, right into an early grave.
Unfortunately, this new problem’s going to be a really dangerous one. Read more…
The last time Gregor Reinhardt was in Sarajevo, a couple years ago, he was a mess.
A former Berlin policeman unhappy with his lot in the Third Reich, Reinhardt halfheartedly investigated military crimes for the ABWEHR during the day, and weakly attempted suicide each night. But then he found a reason to go on, thanks to a brutal case that finally spoke to the man he once was. And he ended up not only solving that case, but ultimately becoming a collaborator in a plot against the Nazi regime.
Now it’s 1945, and he’s back in town — this time with the Feldjaegerkorps, whose investigative remit is so powerful that even superior officers must answer his questions. Not that he should be in Sarajevo too long, though; the enemy is pushing its way towards the city, and the Wehrmacht is going to “reposition” itself between them and Berlin. So this should just be a clean-up detail, making certain things go as smoothly as possible as everyone picks up their gear and gets on a train.
Of course, a case would drop in Reinhardt’s lap, and on the way into town, no less. A strange combination of machine-gunned corpses and burned bodies leads him to suspect murder, rather than the mere execution of suspected partisans or troublemakers. And a trio of frightened witnesses — who either can’t or won’t tell him what happened — all but cement his certainty that something seriously untoward has happened here.