The Big Bundle
by Max Allan Collins
“What kind of world are we living in, Nate?” A world where men like us can get ahead, Bob. Can make a nice life for ourselves and our families. But it’s also one where men of envy and greed and stupidity and flat-out evil are ready and willing to take everything away.”
The President of Chicago’s A-1 Detective Agency makes his grand Hard Case Crime debut in The Big Bundle. The latest from living, breathing noir encyclopedia and prolific genre staple Max Allan Collins.
The year is 1953, and six-year-old Bobby Greenlease, son of Kansas City Cadillac magnate Robert Greenlease, has been kidnapped. Following a series of cartoonish attempts to ransom the boy, Chicago detective Nathan Heller is called to K.C. He’s pleaded to by the boy’s desperate family and hired on as one of the many local and federal caseworkers drawn into the crime.
But what starts as a kidnapping quickly spirals into something much, much more complex—pitting Heller against crooked Teamsters, thuggish cabbies, out-of-luck bent cops, and Robert F. Kennedy on the warpath for the mob. All immaculately strung across a colorfully detailed, powerfully researched depiction of the 1950s. A time when Jimmy Hoffa was in every newspaper, and “The Outfit” (aka The Mafia at its height) kept everyone looking over their shoulders.
Though standing as the 18th Nathan Heller Novel (excluding short story collections and “casebooks”), The Big Bundle is immediately accessible for those interested in coming to the series fresh. From page 1, Collins provides a wonderfully succinct primer on Heller’s exploits thus far. Economically delivered and chock full of rich characterization, Collins eases readers into Heller’s life and immensely readable voice.
Better still, the novel’s main case is genuinely compelling. Made even more so by the liberal peppering of real-life history Collins deploys throughout the book. The Greenlease Kidnapping was huge news compared to the Lindbergh case at the time. Yet another canny connection to our man Heller. But as such, Collins adapts and reconstructs real history, people, and places into the narrative — providing his driving, constantly twisty plot with sumptuous detailing.
To say any more would spoil The Big Bundle‘s best turns. If you are looking for old-school, eminently readable crime fiction, The Big Bundle is a damn safe bet. The Big Bundle is bursting with character and deftly delivered by a well-practiced hand. This new effort from Hard Case Crime does right by Chicago’s A-1 gumshoe and provides him a welcome new home at the publisher.
Advance Reader Copy provided by Hard Case Crime for review.