Monday, 11 August 2014

Herbie's Game by Timothy Hallinan

Soho Press/Soho Crime

Sometimes a fictional character comes along that you simply connect with. Maybe you admire the character, share a common life experience or just outright fall in love with the character.  Well, I am in with love Junior Bender, he is my Hero.  He's intelligent, decent, tall and handsome, vulnerable and in touch with his feminine side. Except for the small detail that he is the thief's thief, giving him that bad boy appeal, he is perfect.  He is always on the side of right even when he's on the wrong side of the law.

This case is extremely personal for Junior.  He is hired to find out who stole a list of names from the safe of Wattles the "executive crook".  The list contains a chain of names that Wattles uses when he sets up hits.  He uses this chain of people to pass along the instructions at blind drops so that nobody in the chain knows who the actual killer is, except the killer. As soon as Junior sees the aftermath in Wattles' office he knows who stole the list - Herbie Mott.  The same man who took a seventeen year old Junior under his wing and taught him everything he knew, his mentor and substitute father has his signature unmistakeably all over the job.

Junior sets out to confront Herbie and find out what is going on, except he is too late. Someone has tortured Herbie in an effort to get him to reveal where he hid the list. But Herbie's heart gave out and he died before revealing the whereabouts of the list or becoming the next murder victim.  Once Junior begins the investigation, the people on the list start turning up dead, one after the other, and Junior wonders if he is next.

In thinking about Herbie’s Game I was struck by the fact that the story is the classical Hero’s quest.  Junior receives The Call to go down a path that he is Reluctant to pursue.  After all, this investigation means dealing with people who murder for a living and that’s not something that leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling.  The Quest itself is, on the surface, about revenge and finding whoever tortured Herbie, but it is also about Junior’s emotional journey and how he discovers things about Herbie that he never knew.  We the readers meet Herbie through Junior’s reminiscences and Junior Re-Meets Herbie through the stories of others he encounters along the way.   He does not journey through the ordeal alone; he has his archetypical allies and helpers (especially female), most of whom we have met in previous stories, as well as a few intriguing new ones. 

The Road Back from the quest is life-changing.  Junior learns to reconcile the Herbie that he didn’t know with the one that he did and Junior matures and comes to terms with other relationships in his life.   Like all Hero quests, conquering the outer world entails mastering the inner world and Junior eventually finds peace and acceptance in his new found knowledge of Herbie and Herbie’s game.
I don’t want you to think that this is a serious deep book with the raison d'être to enlighten you as to the meaning of life. But it is multi-layered and Hallinan does his usual job of great characterizations, incredible dialogue and wonderful humour to demonstrate his  keen and sensitive insight into human nature as the characters come together to direct and tell the story.
I don’t know where Hallinan draws his inspiration from to create his characters but I hope it is a very deep well so that he can keep them coming.

Reading a book written by Timothy Hallinan is just great fun – don’t miss out.

Thank you NetGalley and Soho Press for the copy of the book. I want to mention that I love the cover art created by Katherine Grames for this series.

To read an excerpt go to the author's web site:

Great interview:

No comments: