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Crashed (A Junior Bender Mystery) by Timothy Hallinan
Cover Artist: Katherine Grames
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Soho Crime Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616952747
Date: 13 November 2012 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Junior Bender is a bumbling thief who operates in La-La Land. His clients consist of Hollywood's filthy rich who pay him to steal from their associates who are also filthy rich. Mostly, these people are filthy, not to mention drug and alcohol addicted. However, Junior has a weakness for the elderly and downtrodden. He is hired by a beautiful Italian mobster lady, Trey Annunziato, to discover who is attempting to sabotage the filming of her porn trilogy, Three Wishes. Junior becomes protective of the film's star, Thistle Downing; she was once a child prodigy on the hit sitcom, Once a Witch, before she crashed into a wall of recreational drugs. When his friend Jimmy is assassinated outside Thistle's apartment, Junior is determined to find his killer and prevent Thistle from becoming the next victim.

Timothy Hallinan's Crashed is a humorous, warmhearted Hollywood noir that will provide a few hours worth of much needed escape from the crazy world in which we live. There were a few times I laughed out loud; I can't go into much detail without using words that can not be printed in this review. Most of the humor involved Thistle's fall from stardom and her subsequent drug addiction. She is extremely addicted; she can't function without a fix. We laugh at her but there is a Thistle in all of us. Her real name is Edith but Thistle, which represents her dark side, possessed her during her first audition. Edith told the casting director her name was Thistle and it remained Thistle from that day onward. When I hear the word "thistle", I think of "thorn". Addictions are like thorns and anyone can get one in their flesh under the right circumstances.

I like Junior because he once helped an elderly gentleman, Antoine Duvall, who became a victim of a computer scam that cost him $300,000. Thanks to Junior and some ingenious computer hacking, Antoine received $2,000,000. According to Junior, the extra money compensated him for mental duress. Trey learned of Junior's goodhearted deed and thought she could trust him with protecting her porn film from saboteurs. Unfortunately, that will be difficult because Hollyweird has a huge population of strange characters and many of them are in Hallinan's Crashed. Which of them killed Jimmy (a young Asian man who idolized Jimmy Dean) and who is trying to sabotage the movie are the mysteries that kept me turning pages.

What truly riveted my attention, however, was the character of Thistle Downing. There is a lot of emotional drama in her story. Junior referred to her as one of the saddest people he had ever met. Thistle's story made me think of all the actors we watch on television sitcoms; we envy and admire them for their success but we don't know who they truly are in real life. We don't know the stress and pain they may be enduring. Thistle was Wanda on Once a Witch for at least eight seasons before she burned up faster than a meteorite entering the earth's atmosphere. Thanks to Junior's desire to rehabilitate her, the reader sympathizes with her plight and roots for her to be found after disappearing from Palomar Studios where she was filming Three Wishes.

Readers of Timothy Hallinan's Crashed, especially the females, will definitely find Junior Bender an appealing character. He has an ex-wife, Kathy, and a young daughter, Rina, with whom he is trying to establish a closer bond. They have some trouble dealing with the fact that he is a thief. There is a lot of humor. However, much of it is adult oriented, dealing with perverse sex. Therefore, it is not intended for the kiddies. The body count is low; however, the novel relies more on humor and emotional drama rather than blood in order to maintain a fast pacing.

Crashed is my first Hallinan novel and I was pleasantly surprised to discover he is a very talented writer. Fans will be thrilled that Junior appears in at least two sequels: Little Elvises and The Fame Thief.

Fans of humorous noir involving thieves who become private investigators may want to read Brian M. Wiprud's Feelers, Ringer and Buy Back.

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