cover image Little Elvises: 
A Junior Bender Mystery

Little Elvises: A Junior Bender Mystery

Timothy Hallinan. Soho Crime, $25 (352p) ISBN 978-1-61695-277-8

Hallinan’s second Junior Bender mystery (after 2010’s Crashed) sends the L.A. burglar/PI on a journey into pop music’s supposedly innocuous 1950s past, mixing light and dark humor to enjoyable if uneven effect. Framed by LAPD Lt. Paulie DiGaudio for a residential robbery gone violently wrong, Bender finds he can restore his (relatively) good name by clearing DiGaudio’s uncle, Vinnie, a now retired, but still mobbed-up, music promoter, of a separate crime, the murder of tabloid hack Derek Bigelow. Junior discovers that Vinnie’s old lineup of faux-Elvis teen idols may be key to the crime, while he works on his testy relationships with Derek’s beguiling New Jersey widow, Ronnie; his own 13-year-old daughter, Rina; and the shadowy gangland powerbroker Irwin Dressler. The skewed, Runyonesque Southern California setting, epitomized by Junior’s home, the seedy but festively Yule-themed Marge ’n Ed’s North Pole motel, promises much for further outings, despite occasional lapses in taste and a shaky conclusion. Agent: Bob Mecoy, Bob Mecoy Literary. (Jan.)