As we close out the year, it’s time to take some time to give the fans of some of our favorite authors a few ideas about what to read next. This year, we start with James Ellroy, who stunned us all with his latest release, Perfidia. If you love Ellroy, here are some other books that MysteryPeople guarantees you’ll love sinking your teeth into.
The Empty Glass by J.I. Baker
A look at Marilyn Monroe’s death from the perspective of a county coroner certain of murder. One of the best uses of character point of view. Baker gives us a Hollywood at a period when its classic glamour was beginning to crack. An atmospheric, stylish, and downward spiral.
The Song Is You by Megan Abbott
Abbott uses the unsolved mystery of missing starlet Jean Spangler for a look at the underside of Fifties Hollywood and the treatment of women. Dark, disturbing, and beautiful.
Ratlines by Stuart Neville
As his country prepares for a visit from President Kennedy, an Irish investigator is asked to clear up the murder of a German immigrant as quickly as possible. His inquiry takes him down a violent rabbit hole of war criminals, the Mossad, money, politics, and the ratlines that helped Nazis find asylum in Ireland.
James Ellroy‘s Perfidia is a monster of a book, in scope, size, and ambition. Perfidia takes place in LA during America’s first month in World War II. The book runs close to seven hundred pages, with at least four lead characters and what feels like hundreds of supporting ones. Most of them are corrupt or are about to be. Ellroy’s version of “The Greatest Generation” is blinded by ambition, fear, xenophobia, greed, or just the pure thrill of putting the hurt to someone. if you are up for a plunge into the ink-black heart of history and humanity, this book is for you.
Ellroy’s central character, Japanese-American Hideo Ashida, works as a forensics specialist in the LAPD. He is assigned to a murder case involving a Japanese family the day before Pearl harbor is attacked. The investigation puts him in the middle of an inter-department war between soon-to-be Chief Parker and Dudley Smith, the gangster-cop who served as a villain in Ellroy’s LA Quartet. The case also entwines in a scheme involving the internment of Japanese Americans.
The book is is packed with characters from both Ellroy’s LA Quartet and Underworld USA Trilogy. Tarnished cops Lee Blanchard and Buzz Meeks work in Dudley’s squad and FBI Agent Ward Little also comes in at one point. Kay Lake, an important character in The Black Dahlia, has a prominent role here acting as spy for Parker against some feared but mainly harmless leftists. Ellroy emphasizes noir’s rich theme of fate through the use of familiar characters and historical figures. .
What Ellroy captures so well is the collective mindset of an embattled USA. Mass emotion feeds into riot and murder. The thin line between patriotism and rage is vividly demonstrated when the character of Kay tries to enlist and a group of men attack her for being a leftist and “red”. We see how greedy and unscrupulous men are given allowance to move against the constitution and plain decency. As one character says, “There is no proportion. Pearl Harbor took care of that.”
While taking his characters further into their past, Ellroy creates a novel for perfect for our present. With it’s political hysteria, a right wing running rampant, a left that only preens and poses, and cops on overkill it is difficult not to relate in this post 9-11 and Ferguson world. Ellroy may be holding a dark mirror in our collective faces, but it is hard not to see the truth in it.
You can find copies of James Ellroy’s Perfidia on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
2014 is looking like a great year for crime fiction fans. It’s so good that while I was making a top 5 list of books I’m looking forward to, I realized I had to make it 6.
1. Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman
This will be a bittersweet read, since it will be the last book featuring my favorite contemporary private eye, Moe Prager. Moe is one of the most fully realized characters out there and this series contains some of the most poignant books I’ve ever read. I may be wiping tears as I turn pages. On Sale 5/18/14. Pre-order here.
2. Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson
As much as I love Hilary’s Lily Moore series, this novel of blackmail, kidnapping, and bad relationships sounds like the kind of book I’ve been waiting for her to write. Leaning her towards darker short fiction, this could be the Gone Girl of 2014. On Sale 4/15/14. Pre-order here.
3. Perfidia by James Ellroy
Ellroy goes back to The City Of Angels to revisit some of the characters from his LA Quartet in their earlier days. This could be a return to the sprawling, stylish, down and dirty Ellroy we all got hooked on. On Sale 9/9/14. Pre-order here.
4. The Poor Boy’s Game by Dennis Tafoya
I’ve been waiting years for Dennis Tafoya to come out with a new book – read Dope Thief to know why. This tale of an ex-US Marshall protecting her sister and step mother from her father on the streets of Philadelphia should have all the gritty heart I’ve come to expect from him and be well worth the wait. On Sale 4/29/14. Pre-order here.
5. In The Morning I’ll Be Gone by Adrian McGinty
The final installment of The Troubles Trilogy featuring Sean Duffy, a Catholic cop in Thatcher-era Belfast. My only hope is that McGinty will find a way to continue with this complex character and his biting sense of humor. On Sale 3/4/14. Pre-order here.
6. The Fever by Megan Abbott
A new book by Megan Abbott. That’s all that needs to be said. On Sale 6/17/14. Pre-order here.