Max Allan Collins’ Nathan Heller series began in 1983 with TRUE DETECTIVE. (Almost 40 years ago? How is that possible?) TRUE DETECTIVE is one of the best private detective novels I’ve ever read. Through 18 more novels and story collections since then, Collins has maintained an incredibly lofty standard on this series and kept it alive through several different publishers, a pretty impressive feat in itself.
The Heller series moves to Hard Case Crime, a match that seems well-nigh perfect
to me, with THE BIG BUNDLE. The Heller novels always involve real-life crimes,
and in this one, it’s a high-profile kidnapping in Kansas City in which the
six-year-old son of a wealthy Cadillac distributor is abducted. The kidnappers
want $600,000 in ransom money. There’s something off about the whole deal,
however, and Heller is called in to try to help recover the boy before it’s too
A lot of twists and turns and violence and tragedy ensue. The kidnappers are caught, but only half of the ransom money is recovered. What happened to the other half? That’s the question that brings Heller back to Missouri five years later, in a high-stakes mystery involving not only many low-level criminals but also Bobby Kennedy and Jimmy Hoffa.
As always, the research is thorough and meticulous, the background is fascinating, and the pace is great. Collins had me staying up later than usual and flipping the pages to find out what was going to happen. And of course, Nathan Heller is a great protagonist, smart, stubborn, plenty tough when he needs to be. THE BIG BUNDLE is classic private-eye fiction, just like the rest of the Heller series. I had a great time reading it and give it a high recommendation. It’s available in e-book and audio editions now, and a hardcover is on the way.