by James Ellroy (Heinemann £20, 608 pp)
THIS STORM by James Ellroy (Heinemann £20, 608 pp)
James Ellroy, once called ‘the American Dostoevsky’, is a great writer. His searing depictions of crime and punishment, corruption and betrayal in the LA police department during and after World War II are, quite simply, masterpieces. Who can forget The Black Dahlia or L.A. Confidential?
Here’s the second volume of his second L. A. Quartet, a prequel to his earlier Quartet and with many of the same characters.
It is set in January 1942, just after America was plunged into war following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Japanese-Americans are fair game for corrupt cops, and the appetite for anything criminal is spreading.
Using his sweeping, staccato style, and slang that can take time to penetrate, Ellroy paints a portrait of a city consumed by violence and greed — set against a backdrop of torrential rainstorms that sweep the city. If only the rain could wash away the ugliness, it suggests, but it cannot.
Epic crime writing from a master.
by Parker Bilal (Indigo £8.99, 376 pp)
THE DIVINITIES by Parker Bilal (Indigo £8.99, 376 pp)
The author of the acclaimed Cairo-set Inspector Makana novels has turned his attention to London for a new series featuring DS Calil Drake of the Metropolitan Police, who has been demoted and is barely clinging on to his job, and enigmatic, motorbike-riding forensic psychologist Dr Rayhana Crane. She is drafted in to help Drake, but he insists he has no need of her.
Two bodies are found buried under stones in a pit on a building site in Battersea, where the tide of gentrification is in full flood.
Could the killings be a nod to Sharia law? Or were they simply motivated by financiers seeking to increase their wealth by erecting fashionable new Thames-side apartments?
The echoes of war in Iraq hang over the investigation, as do the secrets of the developer behind the construction.
As you would expect from Bilal, the story is told with a delicate elegance, with its two protagonists becoming ever more compelling. It promises to be a fine series.
OUT OF THE ASHES
by Vicky Newham (HQ £12.99, 400 pp)
OUT OF THE ASHES by Vicky Newham (HQ £12.99, 400 pp)
Newham’s debut introduced Bangladeshi-born DI Maya Rahman who works in Brick Lane in East London — part ultra-hip, part new arrivals, part old Cockney.
This second outing underlines how fine a writer Newham is and how fascinating her heroine is becoming. A flash mob is dancing in the street when there is a huge explosion. A subsequent fire consumes a modernised shop, killing two people trapped inside.
Was it an accident or something more sinister? It emerges the mob may have been a diversion to cover up a crime, which could involve anti-Semitism. The relationship between the old Jewish community and newcomers is sensitively evoked, as is the transformation of life in that bit of London.
It is no surprise Newham taught psychology in the East End before turning to writing — her unflinching eye and understanding of the area inhabit every sentence.