Review: James Ellroy – Killer on the Road

It’s been years since I read an Ellroy novel. However, as I’ve booked tickets to see himJames Ellroy in November, I wanted to do some catching up. His latest book, Perfidia, is out now. I’ll be reading it in the next couple of weeks as Barry Forshaw has given it a very interesting review in The Independent. However, Killer on the Road had been on my list to read for a while so this seemed the logical place to start before tackling Perfidia. Reading one of Ellroy’s earlier books, it was a reminder of why I liked his writing in the first place despite finding his work a perennially uncomfortable read.

Martin Michael Plunkett is a famous serial killer finally captured for the murders of four members of a family. While admitting these killings, investigators from various US states are convinced he is responsible for a decade long slay of violence. When he announces that he is writing his memoirs Plunkett, who sees himself as the ‘shape shifter’, finally reveals the tortured mind that leads him to the path of terror.

Serial killers are somewhat old hat now and yet this book, written in 1999, has managed to retain its freshness. Part of it is the clinical nature of Ellroy’s writing. We get a mix of forms of prose: straightforward narrative, diary entries, press clippings and, therefore, various points of view. But it’s the insight into Plunkett’s mind that provides much of the grisly fascination to the reader. Genuinely disturbed, there is nothing to redeem the character and we watch in horror as the killings span the decade of the 1970s.

But this is more than a psychological thriller. There are a couple of nice plot twists and the reader is often well ahead of law enforcement agencies. The blurb on the front of the book quotes Jonathan Kellerman stating this is the scariest book he’s ever read. It had me wanting to check under the bed while I was reading it. Classic Ellroy.

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “Review: James Ellroy – Killer on the Road

  1. Sarah, I have been meaning to read James Ellroy but, always, some other author rudely nudges his (or her) way in. If these are the kind of psycho-thrillers he writes, then the sooner I get to his novels the faster the adrenaline flow.

  2. Sarah – It’s funny; I’m not usually at all the ‘serial killer on the loose’ type when it comes to my reading choices. As you say, it’s old hat. But if anyone can make it work well, it’s Ellroy. Glad you enjoyed this one.

  3. Your line ‘a reminder of why I liked his writing in the first place despite finding his work a perennially uncomfortable read’ exactly sums up my feelings about Ellroy. I can admire the books but not enjoy them.

  4. I own several of Ellroy’s books but haven’t taken the plunge yet. I’ve seen some of the interviews he’s given. He doesn’t mince words and is always amusing. I will have to make him the first book I read in 2015.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s