Friday, September 30, 2016

#FridayReads Fields Where They Lay by Timothy Hallinan

I was lucky enough to snag an ARC of Timothy Hallinan's most recent release, Fields Where They Lay, a new Junior Bender mystery. Tim has been nominated for the Edgar and Macavity Awards, and Herbie's Game won the Lefty in 2014 for  the best comic mystery.


As a long-time fan of Tim's writing, I was thrilled to get the advance copy of this book that releases in October. I first got acquainted with his work when I was reviewing for BloggerNews.com and received a copy of Breathing Water, a Poke Rafferty Thriller.

That was back in 2010, and I have read a number of other books in the Poke Rafferty series, as well as the Junior Bender series. It's hard to say which I like better, as they both are so well-written and packed with fascinating characters and interesting places.

Junior Bender is not your ordinary thief. He's a cultured thief, if cultured and thief could actually be used in the same sentence, but as you get to know him, you recognize that he is well-read and very knowledgeable about history, geography, art, and jewelry. But of course a thief has to know a lot about art and jewelry.

In this story, Junior, who also works as a private investigator - "it takes a crook to know one"  he is fond of saying - has been hired to find out who is shoplifting in Edgerton Mall. His first thought is, why bother, as the mall is obviously about to go under, but the job is one that is hard to refuse. His client is a Russian mobster. One does not simply say "no" to a mobster.
 
There are a number of references to other literary works throughout the story, and I chuckled when I came to the place where Junior is trying to elude a killer in the dark abandoned upstairs of a shopping mall. In a manic moment, Junior thinks, "I had a vision, about a half a second long, of tying Mini-Me hand and foot with a glittering Christmas garland and driving a stake of holly through his heart Ebenezer Scrooge fashion."

Having directed many productions of  "Scrooge" at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts,  I had to laugh at that, and I could hear my actor saying in his very precise British accent, "And drive a stake of holly through his heart, I should."

Woven through the story, like a thread from a fine tapestry, is the relationship between Junior and his girlfriend Ronnie. Ronnie is secretive, deflecting every effort by Junior to learn anything about her past or her family. Now, just two days before Christmas, Junior is trying to figure out what might be an appropriate gift for someone who doesn't even want to talk about what they might be doing on December 25th. Maybe a clam shell?

For me, one of the most enjoyable things about the Junior Bender series, as well as the other books by this author, is the great dialogue. Tim has a masterful way of using dialogue to show the relationship between characters without having to detail the history of that relationship. For instance, in this story Junior is having a conversation with his friend Louie, who is also a very shady character but  a loyal friend. They're in the mall talking about Christmas spirit and presents and Louie says, "You know what your problem is?"

To which Junior responds, "A Russian gangster? The fact that someone tried to kill me last night? Being stuck in this mall? That music?"

"You ain't bought anything for anybody yet. How can you enjoy Christmas if you're not thinking about giving people stuff?"

"People?" I said.

"You know," he said, stopping. "There may be a limit to how long I can stand you, so why don't you give me my money?"

In that scene, and a couple others with Louie, the reader discovers the length and breadth of this relationship and has such a good time doing so.

There were many places where I underlined a sentence or passage that either made me laugh, or made me stop and think. I will leave you with a thinking quote,  "Lists are so much more satisfying than emotions. An emotion is a cloud, but a list is a stairway."

Meet Tim on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. You can also follow his Author Page on Amazon.
Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent mystery, Doubletake, was named the 2015 Best Mystery by the Texas Association of Authors. She has a number of other books published, including the critically-acclaimed Season Series that debuted with Open Season. Information about her books and her editing rates is available on her website. When not writing, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas.

16 comments :

  1. What a great review! This isn't a book or an author I would have looked at twice -- until I read this. Now both his stories and his style intrigue me. That's a review well (and effectively) done, Maryann. :-)

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Linda, and I am glad I piqued your interest. I have been writing reviews for years. Started in newspapers, then moved to online sites, and now do reviews on my blog. I try to do a good enough job that a potential reader can make an informed choice. :-)

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    3. Linda: If you're intrigued, I'd HIGHLY recommend starting with CRASHED, the first volume in the series. The characters (and their relationships) grow and change over the series. But whatever you do, DO read it.

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  2. I love at witty mystery. Definitely adding to my TBR pile.

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    1. You won't be disappointed, Diana.

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  3. What a wonderful surprise, Maryann. You have no idea how happy this makes me.

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    1. Actually, I do know how wonderful it can be to find a surprise review.

      You are very welcome.

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    2. I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't read any of Tim's books, even though we "chat" on Facebook all the time. Must remedy this. How shall I start?

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    3. Dani, if you want to read the Poke Rafferty series, of which Breathing Water is one title, start with A Nail Through the Heart. The central character is a travel writer.

      The Junior Bender series starts with Crashed.

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  4. But I'm guessing this holiday novel is a standalone, right? Because who can have too many Christmas books? It's all I read in December!

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    1. All of Tim's books are "stand-alones" in the sense that they're a complete story unto themselves. But, the sum of the parts and all that. Also, there's depths to the characters that you'll miss out on if you don't read the whole series. But yes, any one of the books can be read all by itself for a satisfying meal.

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    2. Even thought this book is the 6th in the series, there is enough - just enough - info on recurring characters that it is not imperative to read the books in order. Although, like Everett, I do recommend doing so.

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  5. This is a great review, Maryann. Like Dani, I too know Tim from Facebook and have a couple of his books on my Kindle. Time to read them.

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    1. I have a couple on Kindle, too, that I have not read. Now that I can actually read more and listen to audio books less, I hope to catch up on the 200+ books on my Kindle, as well as some books here on my real bookshelves.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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