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City of Lies: A Thriller Hardcover – October 31, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Until the day his aunt summoned him back to New York to visit his father’s deathbed, John Harper believed he was an orphan. Now, a robbery has left his father critically wounded, and John is being fed new versions of his life story. Was John’s father merely a successful businessman, as his former partner attests, or was he someone less reputable, as John’s aunt and the detective lurking around the hospital suggest. Did John’s mother and his uncle commit suicide, or were they victims of his father’s alleged gangster empire? Determined to find the truth, John summons his own powers of duplicity and delves into New York’s underworld. Ellory (Candlemoth, 2013) layers symbolism and allegory into the airtight crime narrative, constructing a foundation that holds literary weight. Atmosphere and sense of place beg a match with authors known for summoning old-school Mob mojo and manipulating settings—James Ellroy, for example, or Andrew Vachss in Two Trains Running (2005). --Christine Tran

Review

Praise for A Quiet Belief in Angels:

"There aren't nearly enough beautifully written novels that are also great mysteries. Like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Smilla's Sense of Snow, A Quiet Belief in Angels is one of them." --James Patterson

"R. J. Ellory is a uniquely gifted, passionate, and powerful writer, and the quality of his prose--every word, every sentence--hits A Quiet Belief in Angels far above its genre." --Alan Furst

"A Quiet Belief in Angels is a rich, powerful, evocative novel of great psychological depth." --Jonathan Kellerman


"Outstanding noir…Ellory's burning insight into Harper's everyman insecurities drive this triller beyond sordid crime fiction into the darkess recesses of the human heart." —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: The Overlook Press (October 31, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590204654
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590204658
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,851,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Roger Jon Ellory was born in Birmingham, England, June 20th 1965 at Sorento Hospital. The hospital has now been demolished. There is no direct evidence that the two events were linked.

His father having already left before Roger was born, he was then orphaned at the age of seven. His mother, Carole - an actress and dancer - died as a result of a pneumonia epidemic that claimed more than a dozen victims in the early 1970s. In 1973 Roger was swiftly despatched to a boarding school and stayed there until he was sixteen. Upon leaving school he returned to Birmingham to live with his maternal grandmother. His grandfather had already drowned off the Gower Peninsula in the south of Wales in 1957. In April of 1982 Roger's grandmother died following a number of heart attacks.

At seventeen years of age he was arrested for poaching. He was charged, tried, and sentenced to a jail term which he served without causing too much trouble. Upon his release he vanished quietly into relative obscurity to pursue interests in graphic design, photography and music. As a guitar player in a band called 'The Manta Rays' he was partly responsible for their reputation as the loudest band south of Manchester and north of London. Following the untimely death of their drummer, Roger quit the music scene and devoted himself to studying obscure philosophies and reading. Through the complete works of Conan Doyle, Michael Moorcock, JRR Tolkien, numerous books by Stephen King and many others, his interest in fiction steadily grew, not only from the viewpoint of a reader, but a burgeoning interest as a writer.

Roger began his first novel on November 4th, 1987 and did not stop, except for three days when he was going through a divorce from his first wife, until July of 1993. During this time he completed twenty-two novels, most of them in longhand, and accumulated several hundred polite and complimentary rejection letters from many different and varied publishers. The standard response from the UK publishing trade was that they could not consider the possibility of publishing books based in the United States written by an Englishman. He was advised to send his work to American publishers, which he duly did, and received from them equally polite and complimentary rejection letters that said it was not possible for American publishers to publish books set in the US written by an Englishman. Roger stopped writing out of sheer frustration and did not start again until August 2001. One of his agents became an author, another retired from representation and moved abroad, the last one just stopped writing and calling.

In 2001 Roger took an office-based job for the first time in his life. He was shown how to use a computer, how to create a word document, and decided to use his lunch hours to start writing again. Between August 2001 and January 2002 he wrote three books, the second of which was called Candlemoth. This was purchased by Orion and published in 2003. How and why it was published is another story entirely, which if you ever go to one of Roger's events he will tell you! Candlemoth was translated into German, Dutch and Italian, and has now also been purchased for translation into Swedish, French and several other languages.

As of 2012, RJ Ellory had published ten novels, the most recent entitled A Dark and Broken Heart. Candlemoth, his first-published, was shortlisted for the CWA Steel Dagger, as was his fourth, City of Lies, in 2006. His fifth novel, A Quiet Belief In Angels was a Richard & Judy Book Club selection in 2007, and went on to win the Livre De Poche Award, The Strand Magazine Novel of The Year, The Mystery Booksellers of America Award, and the Inaugural Nouvel Observateur Prize. A Quiet Vendetta won the Quebec Laureat and the Villeneuve Readers' Prize. A Simple Act of Violence, Ellory's sixth novel, won the UK Crime Novel of the Year 2010. He has been nominated for a further seven international awards including three Barrys, the 813 Trophy, and the Europeen Du Point. He has also written the screenplay of A Quiet Belief In Angels for Oscar-winning director, Olivier Dahan. His books are now available in twenty-four languages. He is published in the USA by Overlook Press, and they have released 'A Quiet Belief In Angels' (2009), 'The Anniversary Man' (2010), 'A Simple Act of Violence' (June 2011), 'A Quiet Vendetta' (January of 2012), and will be releasing 'Candlemoth' in the spring of 2013. All of Ellory's works will be released by Overlook Press in the foreseeable future. He is also the singer and guitar player of the band, 'The Whiskey Poets'.

On numerous occasions people have tried to identify Roger's work with a particular genre - crime, thriller, historical fiction - but this categorisation has been a relatively fruitless endeavour. Roger's ethos is merely to work towards producing a good story, something that encapsulates elements of humanity and life without necessarily slotting into a predetermined pigeonhole. He attempts to produce an average of forty thousand words a month, and aims to get a first draft completed within three to four months. His wife thinks he is a workaholic, his son considers him slightly left-of-centre, but they put up with him regardless. His son has long since been aware of the fact that 'dad' buys stuff, and thus his idiosyncrasies should be tolerated.

Roger doesn't read anywhere enough books, doesn't watch enough movies, and keeps trying to remedy these omissions. To date he has routinely failed.

Recently he read a book called 'How Not To Write A Novel' by David Armstrong. His favourite quote from this book went along the lines of 'The harder you work the luckier you get'. He agrees with this principle, and thus has no intention of retiring from anything, ever.

He's just going to keep on writing, and he hopes people keep on reading, and now there are people showing up to readings and signings that he has never met before, he feels that his purpose as a writer is at last being accomplished.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By RSVP on October 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
To me, this book was unreadable, quite literally unreadable. I believe there is a plot here that someone with more patience for pretentious writing than I possess would find compelling. But the endless moody, quasi-poetic-lyrical descriptions, couched in stacks of run-on sentences fragments was just too much for me. I found myself scanning paragraph after paragraph looking for the story line through a blur of drizzly wordiness. After some 40-50 pages of it, I simply put it down and never returned. This despite the fact that the plot had become intriguing, and I had developed a genuine interest in how the author would resolve his protagonist's predicament and fate.

This is a genre that rewards clean, crisp declarative sentences and realistic dialog. Neither is here at all. It's as though the author is a frustrated lyrical poet -- a quite bad one, I must add, so justifiably frustrated -- who can create a good story but can't bring himself to just tell it without tarting it up.

Some may enjoy this sort of pap, but if I'm going to read lyrical fiction there is so much truly good stuff out there that I can't waste my time with this stuff. Or, if I'm going to read a plot-driven, genre thriller I want it to be just that: a thriller, the sort that keeps me moving through the character's and plot's development without getting in the way.

One star may be harsh, but what can I say? I couldn't get even a third of the way through the thing without gagging.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Big Bertha on August 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
From the moment John Harper got the phone call summoning him back to New York and found out that his father, who he'd thought dead for the past 30 years was seriously ill in hospital following a shooting in a liquor store I was hooked.

As the storyline develops John uncovers a massive web of lies and deceit starting with the Aunt who brought him up and told him his father was dead, Uncle Walt his fathers business partner in the criminal underworld, the 'eye candy' Cathy Hollander. Which one should he believe? Where does the seemingly obsessed Detective Frank Duchaunak fit in to it all?

I enjoyed this one so much I didn't want to finish it.

Anyone who's considering an RJ Ellory book and not sure which one, they're all great, but I'd recommend this one or 'A Quiet Vendetta'
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Retten on April 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Just so you know, this author was caught writing glowing reviews of his own work under pseudonyms. I just started reading this book, and I'm not surprised about the dishonest self aggrandizement, because I had already marked him as a phony. He tortures grammar until it squeals, as if sentence fragments will make him sound original or profound. He also uses British expressions in the dialogue of his American characters--things like "in hospital" and "he spoke down the phone," and "he went round the corner." If he's going to set a book in New York, he might trouble to learn the lingo. In any case, take the superlatives in some of these reviews with a grain of salt.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sandy Mesmer on June 4, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was fast paced and full of zigs and zags. It had beautiful prose for a thriller and an absolutely unexpected ending.
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By gr on February 25, 2015
Format: Paperback
I liked A Quiet Vendetta so I decided to read City Of Lies. Whew, what a struggle. A Brit author trying to sound like a tough American. "fortnight ?", "kerb?", "earning stripes ( as in deserving a beating)?" At least there was no use of "whilst" as in Vendetta. Every time ( of the dozens of times) anyone told Harper, our novel's hero to leave (NYC) I felt like I should leave off reading and put the book aside; finally, about half way through, I did and went back to James Ellroy, next on the shelf, who I was looking for when I found Ellory. This book is not just a boring waste of time, it's awful.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on November 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
It has been said and/or written that everyone who has read one book by R.J. Ellory has subsequently bought and read them all. I don’t know if that’s true, though after reading CITY OF LIES, I certainly believe it to be so.

I also acknowledge that I’ve been framing an issue incorrectly when I’ve stated --- usually in discussing a novel on the order of RAIN GODS by James Lee Burke or NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN by Cormac McCarthy --- that there are crime novels that transcend the genre and elevate themselves to the status of literary fiction. I was halfway through this book when I realized that I have gotten it backwards. Books such as CITY OF LIES take literary fiction and elevate it to the lofty reaches of the crime novel --- the crime novel perfectly and wonderfully executed. After all, what is LES MISERABLES? THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN? Even A TALE OF TWO CITIES, a crime and political thriller if ever there was one? I thought of all these books, and others, as I read Ellory’s latest.

CITY OF LIES is a crime novel, but it is also a coming-of-age novel, in a sense, a perfect one for an era when 30 has become the new 20. Published in Great Britain in 2006 but seeing publication in the United States some seven years later, the book introduces John Harper, a thirty-something (a very young thirty-something) reporter for the Miami Herald who is uneasily sleepwalking his way through his somewhat unsatisfactory life, ghosting columns while stuck in an amber-like ennui. Harper’s life changes completely over the course of several days in late December, beginning with a telephone call from his Aunt Evelyn in New York, who raised the orphaned Harper from his early childhood but who has been all but estranged from him during his so-called adult life.
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