January 1947, Los Angeles: the body of a beautiful young woman is found drained of blood and cut in half. Two police officers find the woman’s death intriguing and go on a hunt for the truth. But the journey takes them into the darkness of their own lives, as much as that of the dead girl’s…
This is book one in James Ellroy’s LA Quartet series (the others being ‘The Big Nowhere’, ‘L.A. Confidential’, and ‘White Jazz’) and is also the first of his that I’ve read. A kind of neo-noir crime novel, it drops its protagonist, Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert and his boxing pal Lee Blanchard, into a real murder mystery. The pair become heroes when they agree to a boxing match intended to raise funds for the LAPD, but the murder of Elizabeth Short propels them both into a downward spiral as they set out to find her killer.
Though the tone of the book is reminiscent of Chandler et al, Ellroy developed his own unique style of writing that mixes historical fiction and metafiction (where the reader is constantly reminded they are reading fiction). Using language that mixes slang, a weird kind of swearing and police jargon, the book is at times a difficult read. But while my initial reaction was a feeling of not quite ‘getting’ it, every page drew me further in and I soon found myself unable to put it down.
This is a fantastically exciting, strange, scary and totally enthralling book that anyone who loves gritty, noir crime stories should read.
Back to the Blog