Hallinan’s sixth addition to his chronicles of likable professional thief Junior Bender takes place just before Christmas, but it’s a merry present to be opened at any time of the year. Reader Berkrot’s tough-but-smart delivery once again proves a fine match for the glib, genial, surprisingly moral Junior. Here, he tells us of being hired, mainly against his will, by a ruthless Russian mobster who goes by the name Tip Poindexter and wants Junior to find out why his suburban mall is suffering an uptick in shoplifting. With romantic problems adding to his general holiday gloom, Junior feels stuck in the sad collection of fading shops. The continuing thefts and a couple of murders don’t improve morale. Berkrot effectively captures Junior’s downbeat despair and witty, cynical commentary on his surroundings; Poindexter’s a soft, slightly accented hiss; and the distinct voices of the occupants of the mall, like the garrulous, excitable security guard Wally. Shlomo Semple, hired by the mall to dress as Santa, contributes an ironic story of his own involving his father’s escape from Nazi soldiers during WWII that’s so fascinating and so brilliantly enacted by Berkrot that it almost steals the novel. A Soho Crime hardcover. (Nov.)
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.