Fields Where They Lay by Timothy Hallinan
Junior Bender is one of my favorite characters. He is a professional burglar living in Los Angeles and constantly finds himself in trouble - not so much with the police as with his nefarious acquaintances.
Fields Where They Lay is the sixth novel in the series. And it is a doozy. It's Christmas - but this is definitely not your idealized warm and cozy holiday season. The action here takes place almost exclusively in a failing and slightly seedy shopping mall. Junior has been hired - well, rather coerced by a Russian mafia guy and partner in the mall - into investigating incidences of serious shoplifting going on. Between choruses of Christmas carols looping over the mall's PA system, dealing with two sad Santas, and looking over his shoulder for the thug sent either to keep an eye on him or kill him, Junior gets to riff, in funny way, on Christmas chaos, consumerism, and greed. Not to mention shady real estate deals, this being California and all.
Like I said, not your Norman Rockwell view of Christmas, but fun none the less.
A Murder of Magpies by Judith FlandersI couldn't resist this mystery with a typewriter on its front cover! This first novel by Judith Flanders concerns the sudden disappearance of gossipy style and fashion author Kit Lovell. His London publisher, Samantha "Sam" Clair, seems to be the only one who thinks something fishy is going on and sets out to track down Kit's whereabouts. In the process, Sam stumbles onto a money laundering scheme, commits a bit of breaking and entering, makes a trip to a fashion house in Paris, and finds romance. Not bad for her first outing as an amateur sleuth.
I enjoyed most of the action, although there were a lot of characters to keep track of and I never have understood 'money laundering' so the conversations (and there were many) about that I sort of skimmed over. But the insights into the machinations of the publishing biz were entertaining. Quite a few zingers!
Ms. Flanders has written several books about the Victorian era. I am happy she has moved into examining the modern world of book publishing and I look forward to reading more of the adventures of Sam Clair.