Clandestine by James Ellroy

I thoroughly enjoyed L.A. Confidential and American Tabloid – both I read many years ago. I caught L.A. Confidential on cable a few weeks ago and that whet my appetite for an Ellroy novel.  While I was in the bookshop I stumbled across Clandestine and realized that several of the characters from the other L.A. novels were also in this one.

I was not disappointed. This story introduces a young cop named Freddy Underhill. He is on the rise in the Wilshire district and in an effort to become one of the youngest detectives in the L.A.P.D., he pursues the possibility of a serial killer while finding love with a  local District Attorney.

In so doing, he is introduced to Dudley Smith and his underlings. These cops are not exactly squeaky clean in the manner in which they extract confessions from defendants. Underhill falls in with them  as a possible protégé. Underhill, knowing that Smith will try to grab the glory, attempts to out maneuver him and ends up being triple crossed and the defendant comes to an unfortunate end. This ends up with Freddy losing his job as a member of the L.A.P.D.

Flash forward four years and Freddy sees yet another murder that appears to be related to the previous ones that he investigated.  An intricate series of events  unfolds that tie together several of the events and individuals discussed in the earlier part of the novel.

What I love about Ellroy’s writing, aside from these complicated plots, is the realism of the language he uses. It is era appropriate and locality appropriate. I also enjoy the style. It is unique and if you haven’t read any Ellroy, it may take you a few chapters to get used to the flow.

This is easily a four star read. I recommend any of his books. L.A Confidential is a wonderful place to start but there is a substantial body of his work that will keep a reader interested and engaged for some time to come.


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