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Publisher's Summary

It is December 6, 1941. America stands at the brink of World War II. Last hopes for peace are shattered when Japanese squadrons bomb Pearl Harbor. Los Angeles has been a haven for loyal Japanese-Americans - but now, war fever and race hate grip the city and the Japanese internment begins.

The hellish murder of a Japanese family summons three men and one woman. William H. Parker is a captain on the Los Angeles Police Department. He's superbly gifted, corrosively ambitious, liquored-up, and consumed by dubious ideology. He is bitterly at odds with Sergeant Dudley Smith - Irish émigré, ex-IRA killer, fledgling war profiteer. Hideo Ashida is a police chemist and the only Japanese on the L.A. cop payroll. Kay Lake is a 21-year-old dilettante looking for adventure. The investigation throws them together and rips them apart. The crime becomes a political storm center that brilliantly illuminates these four driven souls - comrades, rivals, lovers, history's pawns.

Perfidia is a novel of astonishments. It is World War II as you have never seen it, and Los Angeles as James Ellroy has never written it before. Here, he gives us the party at the edge of the abyss and the precipice of America's ascendance. Perfidia is that moment, spellbindingly captured. It beckons us to solve a great crime that, in its turn, explicates the crime of war itself. It is a great American novel.

©2014 James Ellroy (P)2014 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Perfidia is a brilliant, breakneck ride. Nobody except James Ellroy could pull this off. He doesn't merely write - he ignites and demolishes." (Carl Hiaasen)
"A return to the scene of Ellroy's greatest success and a triumphant return to form. ... His character portrayals have never been more nuanced or - dare we say it - sympathetic. ... A disturbing, unforgettable, and inflammatory vision of how the men in charge respond to the threat of war. It's an ugly picture, but just try looking away." (Booklist)
"A sprawling, uncompromising epic of crime and depravity." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
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  • Story

A Masterpiece of Writing and Narration

Many reviewers have loathed this book, especially in its printed version. Admittedly, James Ellroy is an acquired taste, but one I fully embraced years ago. I've read every one of his novels, essays, short stories, and have found them a difficult journey worth taking. Perfidia is not the place to start, but it is more accessible than Ellroy at his most terse, such as White Jazz or The Cold Six Thousand. That being said, this first volume in his new LA Quartet is nothing short of a violent, rabid masterpiece--an over the top prose poem to violence and debauchery.

And while the novel is great by itself, it is made so much more vivid and memorable by the masterful Craig Wasson in what I believe is the single best audio book performance I have ever heard.

I read the book on the Kindle with the Audible book being read by Wasson simultaneously for one of the great reading / listening experiences of my life.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Rough beginning, softer landing

Any additional comments?


Out of the gate, this was a rough listen. The first section of the book was off-putting to the point where I nearly cashed it in. I am very glad I did not. The listen smoothed out shortly after the open and evolves in to a really good listen. In my opinion, there are likable though multi-flawed characters, a very good story line, and good narration. (Note: the narrator is the same on another great listen of 11/22/63 by Stephen King).

I look forward to the follow up books in this four-part series.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Narrator Craig Wasson is a treasure!

I've listened to Craig Wasson narrate "The Cold Six Thousand" and "Blood's a Rover." He was fantastic, but he's even better here! His characterization of Dudley Smith is particularly good.

If you like Ellroy's Underworld USA Trilogy, you'll like "Perfedia." Its plot isn't as "driving" as other Ellroy novels, but it makes up for it with riveting characters.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • al
  • Cantonment, FL, United States
  • 05-09-15

hope it gets better

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

not sure who would enjoy the first 20 chapters that I've read so far. Maybe someone who enjoys the uncertainty and confusion of a funhouse hall of mirrors. Too many characters with no exposition or relatively little. Can't tell which of the many characters is talking most of the time. Very abrupt and ambiguous transitions from narration to narration. Instead of being shadowy and gritty and LA Confidential like which is what it seems to be aspiring to be, it's just dark and confusing.

Would you ever listen to anything by James Ellroy again?

Absolutely not.

Would you listen to another book narrated by Craig Wasson?

Probably. He has a good range of vocal tones and shading which was useful since it's the only way I've been able to determine which character is which. Character interpretations are pretty good. Narrative tone between dialogue is a bit slow and draggy rather than being dramatic and interesting.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

It was free.

Any additional comments?

i repeat - Hope it gets better.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Wasson delivers another gem

I really love James Elroy books. Within that grouping, this is not my favorite but nonetheless very entertaining. Craig Wasson is an absolute master and he delivers a great performance here. His interpretation of Dudley Smith brings him to life. For Elroy and Wasson fans, I would recommend this book.

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Worth the wait...

I'm not sure if it holds up to the magic prose of his past work. I will say that I was impressed by the narrator switching between soft feminine voice to deadly-cold Irish brogue.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the story. The old favorites were there: Dudley, Bruning, Ward Little, and many more. But the trademark Ellroy prose took awhile get revved up and the conclusion post climax felt a little out of sorts. The characters were as real as daylight and the feel was complete.

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The story does not go well as an audiobook.

I struggled to follow the story, and overall I doing it difficult to listen till the end.

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Amazing Narrator

What made the experience of listening to Perfidia the most enjoyable?

I have listened to a lot of fabulous narrators. I have not listened to a book where the narrator took his time to warm to the subject, to find his voice and when he did, the story, the characters all were there. It was an amazing experience to listen to this book.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Perfidia?

Dudley Smith "braying". Nailed it.

Which scene was your favorite?

Too many to count. I was floored by this performance.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes, well maybe not extreme, but I am now listening to Black Dahlia...doing the LA Quartet a little differently but it is worth it.

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  • Steven
  • Castroville, TX, United States
  • 02-01-17

Classic Elroy

Loved it like all his works, but the narration was off. The different character voices took me out of the story.

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It's starting to feel like Ellroy's phoning it in.

What would have made Perfidia better?

I've enjoyed a lot of James Ellroy's books, but I found "Blood's A Rover" disappointing, and "Perfidia" continues in that downward trajectory. I was bored through most of this book, and found myself wishing it would end. "Perfidia's" overly-complicated plot and thin characters fail to compel. Far-fetched coincidences abound. In "Perfidia," the violence and racism that run through Ellroy's work are ratcheted up beyond the point of self-parody. I had high hopes for "Perfidia," but it felt like time wasted.

What about Craig Wasson’s performance did you like?

I think Craig Wasson is a great performer, but occasionally he attempts an accent that he can't pull off. In this instance, that accent is German.