Blood's A Rover by James Ellroy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The concluding volume of Ellroy's "Underground USA" trilogy is nothing less than an alternative history of the United States from the years 1968-1972. In Ellroy's novel, the conspiracy theorists were right - JFK, RFK and MLK were all assassinated through the machinations of an uneasy coalition of rogue CIA/FBI, mafia and patsies. Big plans are still afoot: J. Edgar Hoover, obsessed with black militants, orders his "pet thug" agent Dwight Holly to design a counter-intelligence program to discredit them. The mafia looks to reclaim what it lost in Cuba by setting up a gambling empire in the Dominican Republic, spearheaded by ex-cop Wayne Tedrow and mercenary (and grassy knoll JFK shooter) Jean-Fillipe Mesplede. Bumbling young private-eye Don Chrutchfield (nicknamed "Dipshit" by the more seasoned killers) stumbles into an unsolved armored car heist, with a missing robber and millions of dollars in cash and gems still unaccounted for. As all these men focus on their own projects, it becomes clear that one person ties all of the threads of the story together: the enigmatic, beautiful and dangerous radical mastermind Joan Rosen Klein aka The Red Goddess Joan. The men realize that she is the pivot point for the whole story and obsess: who is she? what is her connection to the robbery, a socialist uprising in the Dominican Republic and the rising tide of black nationalism in Los Angeles? Ellroy is in top form throughout this 650 page doorstop, the story hurtles forward with a manic energy and staccato dialogue this is hypnotic and narcotic. Not for nothing is he called the "Demon Dog" of crime fiction - the language and violence of this novel will set your teeth on edge. Like most Ellroy stories (notably L.A. Confidential) this story has its root in loneliness - desperately lonely men haunted by the violence of their past willing to risk it all for love and that one final chance at redemption that has eluded them. By turns fascinating, infuriating and downright scary, this is the most ambitious story I have read this year.
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