AN NPR BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
It is December 6, 1941. America stands at the brink of World War II. Last hopes for peace are shattered when Japanese squadrons bomb Pearl Harbor. Los Angeles has been a haven for loyal Japanese-Americans but now, war fever and race hate grip the city and the Japanese internment begins. Read more...
AN NPR BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
It is December 6, 1941. America stands at the brink of World War II. Last hopes for peace are shattered when Japanese squadrons bomb Pearl Harbor. Los Angeles has been a haven for loyal Japanese-Americans but now, war fever and race hate grip the city and the Japanese internment begins.
The hellish murder of a Japanese family summons three men and one woman. William H. Parker is a captain on the Los Angeles Police Department. He s superbly gifted, corrosively ambitious, liquored-up, and consumed by dubious ideology. He is bitterly at odds with Sergeant Dudley Smith Irish emigre, ex-IRA killer, fledgling war profiteer. Hideo Ashida is a police chemist and the only Japanese on the L.A. cop payroll. Kay Lake is a twenty-one-year-old dilettante looking for adventure. The investigation throws them together and rips them apart. The crime becomes a political storm center that brilliantly illuminates these four driven souls comrades, rivals, lovers, history s pawns.
Perfidia is a novel of astonishments. It is World War II as you have never seen it, and Los Angeles as James Ellroy has never written it before. Here, he gives us the party at the edge of the abyss and the precipice of America s ascendance. Perfidia is that moment, spellbindingly captured. It beckons us to solve a great crime that, in its turn, explicates the crime of war itself. It is a great American novel."
- ISBN-13: 9780307956996
- ISBN-10: 0307956997
- Publisher: Alfred a Knopf Inc
- Publish Date: September 2014
- Page Count: 701
- Dimensions: 2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.25 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-06-23
- Reviewer: Staff
Ellroy launches his second L.A. Quartet with a sprawling, uncompromising epic of crime and depravity, with admirable characters few and far between. The action spans about three weeks during December 1941, opening the day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor with the deaths of four members of the Watanabe family, who were possibly victims of a ritual murder-suicide. A note left at the scene written in Japanese, disclaiming responsibility for a “looming apocalypse,” suggests foreknowledge of the attack. The investigation and its ramifications are explored from the perspectives of the LAPD’s Japanese crime-scene specialist Hideo Ashida; William Parker, the future LAPD head; and two figures familiar from Ellroy’s earlier books—Dudley Smith, a murderous and bent cop, and the enigmatic Kay Lake, who’s roped into going undercover in L.A.’s communist community. Cynical schemes to profit from the planned internment of the Japanese may have played a part in the killings as well. This is as good a sample of Ellroy as any for newcomers, and old hands will find new perspectives on old characters intriguing. Author tour. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber Associates. (Sept.)
Whodunit: An embarrassment of fine mysteries
September is a big month for mysteries this year, both in terms of excellence and page count (close to 2,000 pages in the four books here—truly a reviewer’s marathon!). If ever there were a month deserving of four Top Picks, this is it.
First up is The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny, whose Chief Inspector Gamache has retired to Three Pines, a village so tiny it appears on no map. The change in scenery is nice for him, but it is unlikely that hard-line suspense aficionados will be pleased with tales of gardening triumphs, woodland walks with a dog and scones well baked. No worries, though, because Three Pines has just offered Gamache a mystery of the first order. After a falling out, local artist Peter Morrow and his wife, Clara, agreed to meet in one year to assess the possibilities of a future together, but the deadline passed without a word from Peter, and Clara fears the worst. Gamache soon finds himself embroiled in a case as compelling as any he has ever taken on. His search leads him to an ominous part of the province known as The Land God Gave to Cain, a fitting appellation, for fewer will return from the journey than embarked on it. Excellent as always, this is a character-driven tour-de-police-force by Canada’s favo(u)rite suspense writer.
ONE LAST HURRAH
The theme of mostly retired police inspectors carries over into Darkness, Darkness, John Harvey’s final thriller featuring Charlie Resnick, the sandwich-chomping jazz aficionado protagonist of 11 previous police procedurals set in and around Nottingham, England. In the mid-1980s, Resnick found himself on the front lines of the violent confrontation between striking coal miners and the British government (a fictional hero in a real-life situation). Amid the turmoil, a young instigator named Jenny Hardwick disappeared without a trace. Some 30 years later, her bleached bones turn up beneath some new construction. Who better to look into the matter than Resnick, one of the few “old guard” cops with the insight and history to ferret out a murderer three decades after the fact? Resnick’s last case is also his best.
BAD GIRLS' CLUB
Nobody does teenage girl dialogue better than Tana French. This is a dialogue-driven book, and she simply nails it—the insecurities, the eye-rolling flouting of authority, the depth of the friendships, the ruthless bitchiness of the enemies. Eight girls in an Irish boarding school make up the core cast of The Secret Place, and one of them holds the key to solving a murder. It will be up to two cops to extract that knowledge. The storyline alternates between past and present, with the “past” chapters keyed to the time remaining in the life of young Chris Harper and the events that will inexorably lead to his death. The “present” chapters take place largely from the perspective of the police investigation. Thus the big reveal of Harper’s killer takes place for the reader (in a “past” chapter) at almost the exact time it becomes clear to the cops (in a “present” chapter). This must be the longest book I have ever read in one sitting, but I just could not put it down!
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
Pretty much everyone who reads this column should be intimately familiar with James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet, four of the finest suspense novels of their time. Perfidia is the first book of Ellroy’s Second L.A. Quartet, and it is a hell of a good start to the new series. Set in Los Angeles in 1941, the narrative begins the day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Anti-Japanese rhetoric is on the upswing when the LAPD is handed a political hot potato: the murder (or is it?) of a Japanese family, by the traditional samurai disembowelment ritual called seppuku. Many of the characters from the initial L.A. Quartet appear here, but a new character captures the limelight: Hideo Ashida, a budding expert in the new field of criminal forensics, and the only Japanese in the LAPD. Ashida gives a face to the egregious wrongs visited upon the Japanese in WWII-era America: loss of livelihood; confiscation of property; internment into concentration camps. Perfidia (Spanish for “betrayal”) is an apt title for this ambitious novel, as shifting allegiances abound, and the only thing you can be sure of is that you cannot be sure of anything.