If Junior Bender and his girlfriend Ronnie weren't so desperate for cash, Junior would never have broken one of his cardinal rules: Never take a job that pays too well.
Junior has been hired to break into the abandoned house of a recently deceased 97-year-old recluse, Daisy Horton, and steal a doll from her collection. Junior thinks this job has nothing to do with the doll itself and everything to do with something that's hidden inside it-- and that something could get him into a boatload of trouble.
It doesn't take Junior long to discover that he's not the only one looking for the doll, and when one of his friends is murdered, he decides he will stop at nothing to find out who hired him and why that doll is important enough to leave a trail of bodies in its wake.
After spending time with Junior Bender through the course of seven books, he has me well-trained. When he and I break into a house, I, too, stop breathing and listen. I, too, take a close look at the objects in the room. Is anything missing? Is something there that shouldn't be? There's never been a better time for extreme caution than in Nighttown because Junior is breaking into Horton House-- Tim Hallinan's response to Shirley Jackson's Hill House. How does Horton House compare? I wouldn't want to step foot in it, that's for sure.
There's a lot of action packed into a couple of days here. Junior needs to find out what's in that doll, how to keep his loved ones safe, and how to keep himself from being added to the body count. Junior needs all the help he can get, whether it's from fellow crook Louie the Lost or from a tattooed waitress at a local diner or even from an old manuscript.
Hallinan's tightly plotted and fast-paced book kept me anxious for Junior's safety. After all, Junior Bender is my favorite fictional felon-- and Hallinan is one of my favorite writers. The death of Junior's friend at the beginning of the book hit me particularly hard and not because the scene was gruesome. No, not a spec of gore was to be seen, merely the sight of a person getting into a car, the car driving away, and a specific noise. That's all. A very simple scene, but its violence chilled me to the bone. Hallinan knows to let a reader's mind do its own work.
I also appreciate Hallinan's cynicism and his humor. I welcomed those flashes of humor while I worried about Junior. And it's always good to learn something new... like how to shower with a baby alligator. Nighttown is the real deal, the complete package, and if you haven't had the pleasure of reading one of these books, what are you waiting for?
Nighttown by Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime © 2018
Hardcover, 384 pages
Private Investigator, #7 Junior Bender
Source: the publisher