cover image Perfidia


James Ellroy. Knopf, $28.95 (720p) ISBN 978-0-307-95699-6

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.)