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Friday, April 8, 2016

King Maybe By Timothy Hallinan

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Professional thief Junior Bender should have known that stealing a rare stamp would not end well. Not only does stamp collecting violate his aesthetics standards (they are essentially mistakes), but the stamps themselves carry the bad karma of being produced by someone who’s having the worst day of his career. The fact that the larceny involved in breaking into the home of a debt collector known as “the Slugger” was yet another sign portending doom; the night ends unsurprisingly but exhilaratingly with Junior flying-squirrel leaping across windows, dangling off of ledges, and barely managing to escape from the Louisville-swinging homeowner.

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How Junior managed to get manipulated into the stamp theft is a novel unto itself, but that is a side note when compared to the following involuntary task. It seems that Junior managed to sell has-been movie producer Jake Whelan a fake Klee painting, and Jake is demanding repayment. Jake is placing his last hopes of a successful legacy on “Ambient Legacy,” a script being held hostage in the limbo known as ‘turnaround.’ Known as King Maybe, Jeremy Granger is infamous for promising Hollywood deals that he has the power to deliver but rarely the inclination. It is he who owns the production rights on the script, and Jake is extorting Junior into breaking into Granger’s office to discover the film’s current fate. It is a sign of Junior’s character that the news of his teenaged daughter’s breakup with her boyfriend, coinciding with her fifteenth birthday party, is a complication as weighty as the threats to his own life. Fortunately, with the former situation he has the paid assistance of two juvenile delinquent lesbian hackers, whose condescending attitudes towards luddite Junior is a delight of eye-rolling exasperation.

Image source: Soho Crime

The standout element is how this nearly comical caper novel seamlessly transforms into one with a darker tone of exploitation and abuse. While clever banter and Junior’s acerbic sense of humor is threaded throughout, they never undercut very serious themes with very real consequences. In truth, thievery is probably the most stable and healthy element in Junior’s life. His girlfriend, Ronnie Bigelow, whom he met under less-than-ideal-circumstances (he suspected her of murdering her husband), has revealed virtually nothing personal about herself. Not even her real name. That Junior trusts Ronnie more than anyone else in his life probably clarifies the state of his life more than anything else.

While its premise sounds simple, what results is a delightfully complex labyrinth of double-crosses, villains, and greedy Hollywood executives. The author excels at exploring and exploiting the insanity that is the movie-making business to such an extent that actual criminals seem like innocent angels in comparison. Junior himself is an enthralling character, a masterful blend of morality and professionalism, who is nonetheless still a criminal. The humor is always in full force with Junior, but it is his moral core and loyalty to those he cares for that cements his place in readers’ hearts.

To enter to win a copy of King Maybe, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “king,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 16, 2016. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase the book:

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).


  1. This is not the normal type of book that I read, but it sounds like a great read.

  2. I have been a big 'cozy' fan, but the past few months I've been expanding my reading adventures. This book has the right parts to interest me including 'humor.' Thanks, Timothy, for a great rea! Thanks, KRL, for the opportunity!