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by Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime, November 2012
368 pages
ISBN: 1616952741

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

CRASHED is a book that drew me in right from the first chapter. Junior Bender is a burglar who has been commissioned to steal a valuable painting from an upscale home. The job is a tough one—he has to enter through the front door, which is completely visible, and the property is guarded by five Rottweilers. Of course, things go wrong; and when they do, Junior finds very creative ways to manage the situation. That first chapter serves as a fine example of how inventive and witty the author can be. What it doesn't show is how much heart is hidden within the humor.

After the little art-stealing fiasco, Junior discovers that he's robbed a major crime figure and has set himself up for a world of trouble. He finds a way out when he meets with crime boss Trey Annnziato who is channeling her organization into legitimate businesses. At the moment, she has taken on producing a porn movie starring a former child acting prodigy, Thistle Downing. It appears that someone is trying to sabotage the movie, and Trey needs Junior to find out who and keep the movie shooting. After meeting Thistle and discovering that she is destitute and addicted to drugs, he assumes responsibility for her welfare. It breaks his heart to see what she has become and how her talent has been wasted.

Junior has his hands full, to say the least. Whoever is trying to stop the movie being made has upped the bar and killed one of Junior's best friends who had Thistle's apartment under surveillance and attempted to kill Thistle as well. Thistle herself is quite self-destructive, and it's all Junior can do to keep her clean. Despite being a criminal, he finds that he cares about this lost person and is horrified by the idea of her having to perform sexual acts in the movie. He's determined to get her away from that, but how can he do so without ending up in a hunk of concrete when the original theft comes to light?

CRASHED is full of memorable, distinctive characters. Many of them present a real dichotomy of values. There's Junior, who is a criminal but someone who has a real heart and is willing to go the limit for those he cares about. The crime boss, Trey, is a real entrepreneur who recognizes that her organizations will be far more successful if they move into legal activities. Jimmy's friend, Ji Ming Ding, is a gangster and Jimmy Dean fanatic (try saying his name). Hallinan builds a believable plot, filled with both humor and pathos, but never taking things beyond the believable.

I thoroughly enjoyed CRASHED and look forward to the next two books in the series, which will be published next year. Those of you who are fans of the Simeon Grist and Poke Rafferty series by Hallinan will find CRASHED to be quite different from those books but equally entertaining.

§ Formerly a training development manager for a large company, Maddy is now retired and continues to enable the addiction of crime fiction fans as owner of the online discussion group, 4 Mystery Addicts(4MA), while avidly reading in every possible free moment herself.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, December 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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