Bang, Bang, You’re Dead

Murders abound in new novels from James Ellroy, Joe R. Lansdale, Laura McHugh and Leonardo Padura.

By Sarah Weinman

Reading James Ellroy is like being dragged into hell. This, I should stress, is both a compliment and a curse. The best of Ellroy seems to echo Dante’s “Inferno,” spiraling down circle after circle into the depths of mid-20th-century depravity where some greater meaning can be found — only to be upended and refracted. The worst of his work, however, devolves into monotony, the staccato prose more repetitive than ruminative, the characters sliding into ugly caricature.

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