I've read all of the Junior Bender comic-mystery series by Timothy Hallinan and loved every one of them (see my review of "Crashed" and "Little ElviseI've read all of the Junior Bender comic-mystery series by Timothy Hallinan and loved every one of them (see my review of "Crashed" and "Little Elvises"). It features a moral burglar--kind of a Renaissance Man--who is excellent at his job, but keeps getting into trouble. Unsurprisingly, this is mostly because of the people he (being a crook) hangs out with. Junior's exploits are always clever, quick, and told with a witty humor and a pride of product that makes everything seem like it'll work out. He shares lots of tips on how to be a successful burglar--almost a procedural on the subject. What makes his story even more intriguing is that Junior is something of a bibliophile, always connecting the world around him to some historic event:
"The Cahuenga Pss, which derived its name from a Spanish mispronunciation of Cahueg-na, a Native American trading post that once occupied much of the space..."
Or the love of literacy (reading and language) that constantly shapes his world:
"It occurred to me that I was about twenty minutes away from Ronnie's neat, bright, book-filled little apartment..."
"Would it be possible for us to dispense with the condition tense?" "Is that like if and might have?"
"King Maybe" (Soho Crime 2016) was no exception. In this story, Junior runs into trouble with what should have been an easy job, and the solution to get him out of trouble only makes things worse. This was the usual fun romp as Junior tries to out-think and outsmart the criminals trying to control him, except this time--unlike previous books--the interior monologue wandered perilously close to ranting. Here's an example:
"The Ubermenschen of anger, the truly globally angry, were of course politicians, and, to a less extent, high-ranking military officers. Not all of them, of course; some of them (to give them the benefit of the doubt) actually wanted to serve their country, but others (many of them marked, like Cain, with the inverted facial U that Herbie used to call 'Donald Trump Mount') wanted power, pure and simple."
Hallinan may have intended it as character development, but for me, it distracted from what is usually a fun, light read.
Overall, an excellent book, but not as engaging as the earlier ones in the series. I'll still read the next one....more
I was excited to have the opportunity to read Reece Hirsch's third in the Bruen-Doucet series, Surveillance (Thomas & Mercer 2016). I loved the geI was excited to have the opportunity to read Reece Hirsch's third in the Bruen-Doucet series, Surveillance (Thomas & Mercer 2016). I loved the geeky, techie details in the first two, as they showed in graphic and realistic scenes how online privacy can so easily be not only compromised but used against individuals. Surveillance started off great: A black hat-turned-ethical-hacker shows up at Bruen and Doucet's new cyberprivacy law firm, asking for help on a white hack job-turned-ugly. When Bruen and the hacker return from coffee, they find all of Bruen's new employees murdered and must flee for their lives, the assassins close behind, thanks to the digital footprints they leave during their flight.
I love this sort of tech thriller, made even better because it's part of a storyline I've already vetted. The characters were as fascinating as I remembered, multi-dimensional and complicated, and the story arc and the voice heavily dependent upon the involvement of technology. Here's a good example:
"...ever since 9/11 he'd felt as though someone had reached into his internal processors and ripped out a fistful of wiring. He continued to operate, but there would always be breakdowns and sputtering lapses from now on."
But quickly, Hirsch turned this bright beginning into a political agenda railing against the purportedly illegal intrusion of government into the lives of law-abiding citizens, propped up by constant references to Snowden (who stole top-secret documents from the NSA and then published them on the internet). When I counted 4 references to Snowden in the first 65 pages, I got suspicious; when that blossomed to 14 by page 156, it was clear that this historic event would be the motivation for the plot. I could have gone along with that if not for the political rants that accompanied it, with Snowden the aggrieved whistleblower and the government the big bad guy who preys on the victimized citizenry. This juxtaposition--good vs. evil, little guy vs. the big villain--is a worthy theme but must be developed sufficiently so the reader will buy into it. In this case, it wasn't. The only way you'd believe the plot would be if you already believed it going in. To me, the story would have been much stronger without the unnecessary drama of Snowden's too-recent and ongoing actions--and it would have earned more stars from me....more