Simeon Grist is a man with so many degrees from institutes of higher learning that he can’t decide on a career path. So he becomes a private investigator. Simeon is in love with Eleanor Chan and that means Simeon has to love her family, all of them, including Uncle Lo. Uncle Lo saved the family, carrying Eleanor out of China when she was two years-old. Uncle Lo’s position in the family is fixed: whatever Lo wants the Chan family will jump to do. They are delighted when, unexpectedly, Lo arrives in Los Angeles. They don’t ask the reason for his sudden trip. It has been a long time since they have seen him and it would be rude to question him about anything.
The family gathers at a restaurant for a meal in Lo’s honor but at the last minute Lo decides not to come. Instead, he volunteers to stay at home with the four year-old twins, the children of Eleanor’s brother, Horace, and his wife, Pansy. Pansy is happy and grateful to Uncle Lo that she has sometime without the children, at least until they arrive home and discover that Uncle Lo and the twins have disappeared. The apartment has been ransacked. On the door to the twins’ room is a note: THEYRE OKAY. DON’T DO NOTHING. The hall closet door has been damaged: “I opened it and saw a surprisingly large and very dead Chinese man. He had a small mustache and wide empty eyes. He was no one I knew.” Simeon closes the door fast.
The family and Simeon haven’t absorbed this disaster when two new elements attack from the kitchen. Two young Asian men, little more than children, push their way into the apartment, each holding a gun that doesn’t belong in the hands of kids. They are looking for Uncle Lo. Simeon manages to tie them up but they claim they are following orders and don’t know who wants him. Did they accept Uncle Lo too quickly?
Then the story takes off. There are crooked lawyers, members of a Chinese gang, the leader of which wears custom-made silk suits in the colors of “Lifesavers”, a woman missionary, a female boat captain, Dexter Smif, a friend of Simeon’s, and his friends, the Doody brothers, all of whom are very large and very willing to help Simeon get back at the people who took, and then returned, the twins. There is some money laundering, and there is a great deal of money, and there is human trafficking in people who will be slaves when they get to the United States.
There is also a lot of brutality. Parts of the book are very dark because so many people have so little care for other human beings.
And there is laugh out-loud funny dialogue and scene descriptions. In the Poke Rafferty series, I have found that Tim Hallinan writes prose like poetry. In THE MAN WITH NO TIME, Hallinan writes prose as if it were dialogue and scene directions from a Marx Brothers movie.
I don’t know what it says about my sense of humor, but I laughed every time I came across, “Hello, Lo”, written into the dialogue. I won’t spoil anyone’s enjoyment by giving any hints about Horton Doody’s appearance.
I read THE MAN WITH NO TIME when it was published in 1993. I remembered that it was funny; I had forgotten just how funny. If a reader thinks SHOOTERS AND CHASERS is funny, they’ll think the same of THE MAN WITH NO TIME.