The hits keep coming in multiple-murder-master Ellory’s (The Anniversary Man, 2010, etc.) latest—literally.
It’s not so easy in the Big Easy, not in summer, when “the storm drains backed up in the last week of July, and...spilled God-only-knew-what out into the gutters.” One of the things they cough up is bodies. As Ellory’s tale opens, medical examiner Jim Emerson and a cop with the poetic name of Verlaine are puzzling out one brutal specimen, an investigation instantly complicated by the kidnapping of the governor’s daughter. It being Louisiana, the governor is, of course, hopelessly corrupt. Even so, justice is justice, and Ellory conjures up a worthy squad of cops to chase down the bad guy. This being an Ellory tale, though, it’s the bad guy who does the chasing—or at least the talking, for more than anything else the kidnapper seems to want only a forum to get a few things off his mind about a decidedly checkered past. He talks—“I was Ernesto Cabrera Perez, a man capable of killing other men, a gifted man, a dangerous man”—and he talks, though the occasionally dorm-room-philosophical gab is pleasingly punctuated by lots of carnage. One wonders whether Ellory has been keeping company with mob assassins himself, to judge by some of the details he presents; suffice it to say that an attentive student could carve out an independent-study curriculum in dealing death from Perez’s leisurely account of his adventures, so elegantly delivered that one might imagine the lines having been written for, say, Javier Bardem (“I am here of my own volition, and I assure you I am quite unarmed”). The tale-spinning goes on a little long, and the tale itself untightens in the telling, but Ellory delivers a neat conclusion that’s not exactly instant karma, but close enough.
It even approaches happy, if you don’t mind your happiness—and a lesson in family values—soaked in blood and brains. A satisfying effort in a franchise devoted to double-digit mayhem.