'There has never been a writer like James Ellroy.' Telegraph
Los Angeles, December 6, 1941. Last hopes for peace are shattered when Japanese squadrons bomb Pearl Harbor. War fever and race hate grip the city and the internment of Japanese-Americans begins.
Following the hellish murder of a Japanese family, three men and one woman are summoned. William H. Parker is a captain on the Los Angeles Police. He's superbly gifted, corrosively ambitious and consumed by dubious ideology. He is bitterly at odds with Sergeant Dudley Smith - Irish émigré, ex-IRA killer and fledgling war profiteer. Kay Lake is a 21-year-old dilettante looking for adventure. Hideo Ashida is a brilliant police chemist and the only Japanese on the payroll.
Four driven souls - rivals, lovers, history's pawns - thrown into an investigation which will not only rip them apart but take America to the edge of the abyss at a crucial moment in its history.
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.