Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book Review: Clandestine by James Ellroy

Clandestine Clandestine by James Ellroy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Fred Underhill is a young policeman in Los Angeles on his way up. By day he keeps the city safe from crime and at night he prowls for loose women and goes looking for "the wonder," a sense of awe that he feels from anything that is new an unusual: from people, nature or crime. Things change dramatically when one of his romantic conquests is later found murdered in the manner that makes Underhill suspect a serial killer may be at work. Underhill has a suspect, and working under a black flag with rogue police lieutenant Dudley Smith, they coerce the man's confession only to have him take his own life in prison and then be exonerated as innocent posthumously. Forced out of the police department in disgrace, Underhill drifts for several years until reading of the killing of another woman in the same manner as the others inspires him to re-start his own investigation and to supply his own justice. This is Ellroy's second novel, and something of a transitional work. What is surprising is the amount of sentimentality bordering on the maudlin at times that the narrative contains. The novel has something of a split personality between the hard boiled sections of Underhill's police work and private investigation and the sections of near romanticism where he searches for the miraculous in life and romance. Still, Ellroy is a smart enough storyteller even at this early stage not to let the narrative get too bogged down and builds the final third of the novel to a fast paced conclusion. Clandestine -

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