Written before Hannibal Lecter made his first appearance in print, before serial killer fiction had become a subgenre, Blood on the Moon, the first novel of the L.A. Noir trilogy, pits the racist, reactionary, sexually obsessed Hopkins against a sexually motivated serial killer whose intelligence and capacity for brutality match the detective's own. In Because the Night, the second book in the trilogy, Hopkins once again confronts psychotic evil, this time while investigating the possible connection between a multiple homicide and the disappearance of a fellow cop. The trilogy concludes with Suicide Hill, a manhunt-thriller in which Hopkins tracks down a kidnapper and discovers among his colleagues a complex web of power, corruption, and lies.
Suspenseful, stark, and startling, the novels of the L.A. Noir trilogy exhibit the seminal hallmarks of Ellroy's taut, haunting prose. His dark and disturbing portrait of Hopkins, a thoroughly unlikable protagonist, drives the novels with unrelenting force, taking readers down paths of they might not really want to explore. Readers seeking a protagonist they can identify with, a hero they can like, probably won't find much to recommend in L.A. Noir, but Ellroy never meant Hopkins to be a likable hero. Instead, he has created what he calls "a complex monument to a basically shitty guy," and in doing so he laid the groundwork for the novels that have earned him a seat at the table of truly great crime novelists. In all, L.A. Noir offers Ellroy's admirers a chance to look back a few years and see the primitive intimations of the style and substance that would later characterize his L.A. Quartet series, but it is no primer for beginners, who might be more readily wooed by the more refined tension and complexity of his later novels. --L.A. Smith