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May 5, 2013 / schulerbooks

The Fame Thief, by Timothy Hallinan


If you had to name the most dangerous and well-connected person in all of Los Angeles, Irwin Dressler would be right at the top of the list. Studio bosses and Union heads used to call him to find out what to do, that day, and lived in fear of him calling them. And let’s not even get started on his mob connections…

So when Junior Bender — unofficial (read “press-ganged”) detective to LA’s criminal classes — gets snatched off the streets by Dressler’s thugs, and plopped in front of the testy and talkative nonagenarian, he knows he’d better mind his Ps and Qs. And that’s a good thing, because the case that Dressler wants Bender to take this time is an unusual one: who stole the career of the most beautiful woman in the world, and left her a Hollywood exile?

It’s a good question, though. Once upon a time, Dolores La Marr was really going places; working her way up from bad movies to good, from the bottom of the bill to the top of the credits, and from casting couches to made men. In time she might have been another Marilyn Monroe, but then a bad night in Las Vegas left her arrested, exposed, humiliated, and dragged in front of Senate committees.

And after that, all she had to look forward to was ridicule and shame, unanswered phone calls, and a lifetime in hiding.

As a professional burglar, Junior knows a thing or two about taking the most important thing from someone’s life. As a divorced dad trying to maintain a decent relationship with his daughter, he also knows a thing or two about having it taken from him. And as someone trying to be some shade of a decent human being — professional activities notwithstanding — he can’t help but feel for the sassy and sharp, but clearly broken woman he goes to interview.

So Bender does what he does best, and starts poking around at the past to find an answer. But the more you dig in the stagnant water of times gone by, the more things float to the surface, and not all of them are happy to be disturbed. Before long, Bender’s list of witnesses starts to get rubbed out, and there’s every chance he might be next.

And just when he didn’t need any more complications, it turns out a very dangerous hitwoman is calling on him, wanting him to help her settle some unrelated family problems. And his wife’s dating a sleazy real-estate snake-charmer, and his daughter’s too smart for her own good, and his new girlfriend needs attention… oh, and there might be a genuine ghost involved in the crime, too.

What’s a burglar under the gun to do? If you’ve already read Crashed and Little Elvises, you know that Junior Bender isn’t without resources to call on if his plans backfire. But this time he may have had his face shoved into a meal he might not be able to chew on his own…

Three books into this series, Timothy Hallinan is succeeding in giving his readers a light-hearted noir crook to cheer for, along with intriguing characters, and an underworld saga that keeps building on itself from book to book. The Fame Thief is not as breezy or fast as the previous two books, as there’s flashbacks and senate transcripts involved, but Hallinan proves as adept with showing us the past that doesn’t turn up in LA’s history books as he is with showing us the parts of the town that don’t appear on the tourist maps. The potentially-risky move of changing the mix pays off, making this book as fun as its predecessors, and still possessing of a gold heart under all those dirty secrets and second-story capers.

The Fame Thief drops on July 2nd, 2013. Shine a light on it as soon as it comes out.


One Comment

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  1. Kevin Cummings / May 7 2013 9:41 pm

    I’ve read CRASHED and four the five he wrote in the Poke Rafferty series. Can’t wait to read the next two about my favorite burglar protagonist, Junior Bender.

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