He often walks the mean streets… of upmarket Encino and Sherman Oaks. He can’t always tell a femme fatale without a background check and tracking device. He packs heat – when he can remember to get his gun out of storage. And – get this – his name is Junior. But he’s Chandleresque enough to crack wise at the drop of glock, or solve a murder – armed with an arsenal of strained similes – with more twists and turns than the Grapevine to Gorman.
Or two murders at the same time, for that matter. And that’s indeed the matter in Timothy Hallinan’s comically hardboiled though often convoluted Little Elvises, the second entry in the Junior Bender Series (after 2010’s Crashed). Junior is an adept and never-busted burglar who rubs elbows with those on the other side of the law, but he’s also “the crook’s cop” (“it’s a sideline, sort of”), a burglar who’s a troubleshooter and investigator for L.A.’s unjustly accused criminal kind when they’re caught in a trap and they can’t walk out.
In Little Elvises Junior himself is ensnared time and again by a troupe of secondary characters as colorful as anything to be found in the pages of a Hammett or Hiaasen novel, an ensemble that includes a sociopathic, morbidly obese borderline bedlamite for a hit man; a scorekeeping, ninety-something mob boss emeritus; a scheming scandal rag reporter intent on ill-gotten extravagance; and – perhaps most confounding of all – an ex he still covets and his precocious 13-year old daughter and unofficial on-call consultant for all things technological, though she “hasn’t hit the stage yet where the entire world seems like a personal imposition.”
Junior may need such expertise at this time, now that he's being set-up by one of LAPD’s less-than-finest for forcing his way into a judge's house, beating his wife, and stealing their jade collection, unless Junior finds a way to get the cop's aging music mogul uncle out of a murder rap for the killing a tabloid reporter. As a Philadelphia record producer in the late 1950s and early '60s, the uncle made a fortune by signing up several untalented but attractive young men, getting them to look, lip-synch, and snarl like Elvis Presley, and preparing them for their pretty boy close-ups for a nation full of enthusiastic teenage girls.