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THIS STORM

A gritty, absorbing novel that proves once again that Ellroy is the rightful heir of Chandler, Cain, and Hammett.

Ellroy, master of California noir (Perfidia, 2014, etc.), serves up a heaping helping of mayhem in this second volume of his Second L.A. Quartet.

If there’s a constant in Ellroy’s storytelling, apart from snappy prose, it’s that there’s a fine and often indistinguishable line between good guys and bad guys: His cops are dirty, his villains sometimes blessed with noble virtues. There’s not much nobility in this new novel, though, which picks up after Pearl Harbor in the uneasy months when Nazis are floating around on the streets of Tijuana and LA, soldiers and sailors are battling zoot-suiters, Father Coughlin is sputtering anti-Semitic propaganda across the line on Mexican radio, and Japanese-Americans are being rounded up for internment. But even the beleaguered nisei take time to cast out a few slurs at the Chinese for whom they’re confused, while the LA constabulary scours the streets. “How come we’re not rousting the dagos and the Krauts?” wonders one, even as everyone avoids the elephant in the room, a shipment of gold that’s gone missing. It being Ellroy, there are tangled storylines aplenty as well as a large dramatis personae, many of whom will be familiar to readers of Perfidia. About the best of them is the Japanese-American police investigator Hideo Ashida, who harbors no illusions about his clientele: “Lustful men and corrupt women. It was ghastly business.” Lead player Elmer Jackson, a world-weary flatfoot, has his good points, too, but he’d rather be back in vice than on the Alien Squad, where it "was Japs twelve days a week." Mix in Mary Jane–dealing starlets, sleazy informants, synarchist gangsters, “cops in the Silver Shirts and German-American Bund,” Orson Welles and Walter Pidgeon in a decidedly non–Hays Code film sequence, and a thousand other threads, and you’ve got a raucous tale that will likely leave you in need of a shower and a Disney film.

A gritty, absorbing novel that proves once again that Ellroy is the rightful heir of Chandler, Cain, and Hammett.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-307-95700-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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ABSOLUTE POWER

The mother of all presidential cover-ups is the centerpiece gimmick in this far-fetched thriller from first-novelist Baldacci, a Washington-based attorney. In the dead of night, while burgling an exurban Virginia mansion, career criminal Luther Whitney is forced to conceal himself in a walk-in closet when Christine Sullivan, the lady of the house, arrives in the bedroom he's ransacking with none other than Alan Richmond, President of the US. Through the one-way mirror, Luther watches the drunken couple engage in a bout of rough sex that gets out of hand, ending only when two Secret Service men respond to the Chief Executive's cries of distress and gun down the letter-opener-wielding Christy. Gloria Russell, Richmond's vaultingly ambitious chief of staff, orders the scene rigged to look like a break-in and departs with the still befuddled President, leaving Christy's corpse to be discovered at another time. Luther makes tracks as well, though not before being spotted on the run by agents from the bodyguard detail. Aware that he's shortened his life expectancy, Luther retains trusted friend Jack Graham, a former public defender, but doesn't tell him the whole story. When Luther's slain before he can be arraigned for Christy's murder, Jack concludes he's the designated fall guy in a major scandal. Meanwhile, little Gloria (together with two Secret Service shooters) hopes to erase all tracks that might lead to the White House. But the late Luther seems to have outsmarted her in advance with recurrent demands for hush money. The body count rises as Gloria's attack dogs and Jack search for the evidence cunning Luther's left to incriminate not only a venal Alan Richmond but his homicidal deputies. The not-with-a-bang-but-a-whimper climax provides an unsurprising answer to the question of whether a US president can get away with murder. For all its arresting premise, an overblown and tedious tale of capital sins. (Film rights to Castle Rock; Book-of-the-Month selection)

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 1996

ISBN: 0-446-51996-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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