The return of the LAPD's Sgt. Lloyd Hopkins (Because the Night, 1984)--who continues to make Dirty Harry look like Dick Tracy as he fights to avoid dismissal (on psychiatric grounds), resist blackmail (by a ruthless born-again LAPD rival), and catch a weird trio of homicidal bank-robbers. "Essentially a criminal," a super-"hot dog" cop with a 170 I.Q., Hopkins is nearly unhinged by the loss of his wife and kids (they've moved to San Francisco) and by LAPD attempts to ease him into early retirement. Still, he tries to go more or less by the book when he's assigned to help out with the FBI investigation of two bank robberies with a similar modus operandi (the kidnapping of the bank manager's mistress). Things soon get complicated, however. As we learn in interspersed crime-world chapters, the bank robbers are a volatile threesome: brilliant ex-con Duane, who's maniacally determined to reclaim his zombie-like girlfriend, now a "coke-whore" in the Hollywood "porn-vid" scene; creepy Bobby Garcia, half sex-maniac, half religious fanatic; and Bobby's timid, abused brother Joe. Furthermore, the trio's third heist goes bloodily awry--with a police rookie, son of Hopkins' archenemy Gaffaney, among the fatalities. So Hopkins winds up not only battling the bank robbers but also trying to out-fox Gaffaney, who plans to murder the criminals rather than capture them. (Moreover, Gaffaney has evidence of a murder committed by Hopkins himself--for idealistic reasons, sort of--back in 1965). As in Because the Night, the lurid convolutions get somewhat out of hand here as the crisscrossing plot builds to a montage of shoot-outs, frame-ups, third-degrees, and suicide. Again, too, there's a strain of pretentiousness in Hopkins' dubious stew of motivations, in the love/hate relationships among the neo-Wambaugh cops. But Ellroy has toned down his purple prose and tightened up the psychopathological mayhem; he even manages to generate a certain odd sympathy for some of the foulest supporting players. So, though excessive and densely unpleasant, this dank cops-and-robbers drama has undeniable edge and punch--at least for readers eager to plunge deep into a world of seamy criminals and even seamier policemen.