Perfidia

James Ellroy, read by Craig Wasson. Random House Audio, , unabridged, 22 CDs, 28 hrs., $55 ISBN 978-0-553-39926-4

Ellroy’s latest guide to the dark passages of Southern California history is a prequel to his Los Angeles Quartet (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz), featuring many of the same characters. It opens with the murder of a Japanese family on the day before the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor. The story quickly spins into a tale of a city so stymied by the possibility of Far East invasion it’s all too easy for a cynical police force to make homicides, greed, and corruption the order of the day. Actor Wasson (Body Double) once again proves to be the author’s ideal vocal interpreter, not only providing more than 50 distinct voices but keeping perfect pace with Ellroy’s unique style: hammering the novel’s staccato narration, intensifying the kinetic passages, and slowing down for the characters’ fantasies and self-delusions. A Knopf hardcover. (Sept.)