Robert Ellis Reviews
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Ellis writes well and has a good sense of pace and timing. Once you start The Lost Witness, you'll stay with it through those zigs and zags. And even when you finish the book, it'll spring up like a side effect each time you see those pharmaceutical commercials on the network evening news."
The Guardian (UK)
"Ellis piles on the Hollywood atmosphere and procedural detail, and the end revelation is expertly timed and genuinely shocking."
The Evening Telegraph (UK)
"The Lost Witness is a tough thriller that makes Ellis a name to watch."
"The Lost Witness is another gripping story by a writer who knows the seamy L.A. underworld well."
The Kingston Observer
"City of Fire, the first in the Lena Gamble series, was good, but this second installment, The Lost Witness, is better. Nothing is as it seems in this unputdownable thriller which stars a woman of uncommon courage."
Joe Drabyak, Chester County Books & Music Co.
"Our staff is very much in agreement that The Lost Witness may very well be one of the best thrillers that you will read in 2009."
New Mystery Reader Magazine
"One of the first things noticed when reading Ellis´s latest (The Lost Witness), much like his first, is the realistic and fantastic job he does with his approach to this high octane tale from a female´s perspective. With not too much, and not too little, his creation of a female heroine comes off with just the right amount of bravado and sensitivity to convince even the most discerning of readers. And to top that off, while the story starts off with an even and steady tone, its steady but ever-increasing pace heads towards the explosive ending like a firecracker; one that explodes with more force and surprises than ever expected. And it´s in reaching this unexpected ending and finding out finally who done what and why that makes this read top-notch; there´s much more here than meets the eye. Filled with greed, big money, family loyalty, and things best left to the reader to discover on their own, this is one that comes highly recommended."
P R A I S E F O R
C I T Y O F F I R E
The New York Times "HOT LIST" Pick
"Los Angeles, under a cloud of acrid smoke...Robert Ellis´s
City of Fire is a gripping, spooky crime novel."
"City of Fire is my kind of crime novel. Gritty, tight and assured. Riding
with Detective Lena Gamble through the hills of Los Angeles is
something I could get used to. She´s tough, smart, and most of all,
Janet Evanovich, People Magazine
"I just discovered this guy. City of Fire is terrific."
Paul Goat Allen
"City of Fire by Robert Ellis is a no-holds-barred, barnburner of a thriller
that blends Los Angeles-style crime fiction a la Michael Connelly with
pulse-pounding Dean Koontzian psychological suspense. With a
Southern California increasingly threatened by Santa Ana-fueled
wildfires as backdrop, the emotionally supercharged story line centers
on a killer who terrorizes west Los Angeles ... like Connelly´s gritty
Bosch saga, City of Fire features a tough but deeply flawed protagonist,
a tantalizingly complex plot, fully realized -- and realistic -- characters
and, most of all, a palpable intensity. And if that weren't enough, the bombshell plot twist at the novel's conclusion makes this an absolute
must read for thriller aficionados."
"Ellis nicely depicts how the unsolved murder of Lena's musician brother casts a specter over her life and work. But City of Fire is ... about its propulsive plot: the ins and outs of police investigation and how the growing horror of a mad multiple murderer loose on the fiery streets of Los Angeles leads to unexpected decisions, layers of betrayal, and a scorcher of an ending."
South Florida Sun-Sentinel,
BEST MYSTERIES OF THE YEAR
Oline H. Cogdill
"Robert Ellis' brisk, complex City of Fire is hot stuff. Ellis excels at vivid writing and the expert plotting keeps the reader off-kilter. Ellis takes the police procedural and makes it a tale of personal corruption and desire, where right and wrong overlap. Here, the answers aren't easy as Lena wonders about 'blowback ... what the truth could do to a soul.' L.A., which is written about so often, seems fresh in the hands of an original storyteller such as Ellis."
Barry Martin, Book'em Mysteries, Pasadena, CA
"With City of Fire Robert Ellis joins the elite company of California
crime writers like Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, Don Winslow and
T. Jefferson Parker. City of Fire captures the L.A. landscape with a
crackling good story, great character development and solid writing.
Robert Ellis is a writer to watch. City of Fire is sure to please."
Mark Moskowitz, Director, Stone Reader
"This books pumps your blood, keeps you racing through the night, with
a cast of characters at full throttle. Ellis´s prose has the visceral punch
of the best Ellroy. And his heroine, Lena Gamble, is the most complex, tightly wound detective in years. She´s strong, smart, uncompromised,
and I´d follow her anywhere."
"Ellis vividly evokes Hollywood as a place of burning desires, where the boundaries between good and evil are blurred beyond distinction. Ellis´s prose is crisp, and his plot moves at a good clip. His characters are credible and complex."
"This potboiler dishes it out. This book is fast. Ellis makes it easy to be terrified. Recommended for all popular collections."
"Through the literal and metaphorical fog of a forest fire that rages through much of Ellis´s tense third thriller (after Access to Power and The Dead Room) ... the story is tight, the characters alive ... and the end refreshingly uncharacteristic of female protagonists."
"An LAPD detective goes out on an emotional limb chasing a violent
serial killer. Lena Gamble and her new partner, Hank Novak, are called
to an early morning crime scene in a small house near the Pacific Coast Highway ... A complex portrait of the flawed but righteous Lena by Ellis (The Dead Room, 2002, etc.) makes this sure-footed police procedural something special."
Mystery Scene Magazine
"City of Fire begins like a roller coaster, building tension, anxiety and
fear. Then it plunges at full speed, spiraling and twisting through scenes
that will have hearts pounding and fingers flying through the pages. But
there is no smooth braking to a stop in this book. It careens to the end
and then flies off the rail with a shocking twist that will leave readers
stunned. Robert Ellis is a master of suspense."
R E V I E W S
P R A I S E F O R
T H E L O S T W I T N E S S
Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
"Scorching. Deliciously twisted. Nothing is what it appears to be. Ellis succeeds masterfully in both playing fair and pulling surprise after surprise in a story that feels like a runaway car plunging down a mountain road full of switchbacks."
Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
"Fans of Michael Connelly and T. Jefferson Parker will relish Ellis' second crackling thriller featuring Hollywood robbery-homicide detective Lena Gamble. Ellis (City of Fire, 2007) serves up a killer crime tale with riveting characters and relentless twists."
"Certain powerful and corrupt individuals, some of them with the LAPD, arrange an efficient murder. Then, curiously, the department assigns the case to a detective whom they think will mess up the investigation. Two problems emerge: Robbery-Homicide Detective Lena Gamble (City of Fire) has no intention of failing, and there is an unknown witness helping her. Doggedly, Lena cuts through all the corruption, defies her superiors’ orders, and, of course, puts herself in danger repeatedly. Ellis’s elaborate puzzle is a nail-biter to the final page. Great LA settings enhance this high-speed thriller. Recommended for all popular collections."
'Murder Season': a terrific sick-soul-of-L.A. thriller
Joe Meyers, Connecticut Post / Hearst Media News Group
2012 Recipient of the Ellery Queen Award
"In old-fashioned movies and books, we love professional and amateur sleuths who are faced with a pool of likely suspects and then carefully sift through motives and alibis until they find out who did it.
"Guilt is taken very seriously in those stories and the perp isn’t named until there is no room for doubt.
"In reality, however, the cops and prosecutors tend to zero in on the first and most obvious murder suspect and then start building their case. The last thing you want to tell a police detective or assistant district attorney is that there are one or two or more people still out there who had the motive and the opportunity to commit the crime. Since the pre-trial press coverage of a murder case is usually powered by the police and prosecution, their scenario is hammered into the public’s consciousness.
"The new Robert Ellis thriller, “Murder Season” (St. Martin’s Press), balances the reality of high profile murder cases with a wonderful protagonist — L.A. police detective Lena Gamble — who doesn’t buy the official story in what her superiors would like to write off as a cut-and-dried revenge murder.
"Gamble is called to a hip celebrity nightclub in the wee hours after two dead bodies are found in an office — the very connected owner of the nightspot and a young man who, just a few months earlier, avoided being convicted of a brutal slaying when evidence tampering shot holes in the prosecutor’s case and the jury found him not guilty.
"The press and the city were outraged by the O.J.-like verdict and not only assume that the dead girl’s father killed the young man, but are ready to applaud him for taking the law into his own hands.
"Lena has doubts about the father killing the young man and that leads to her looking into the case of the dead girl.
"She quickly sees that the investigation of the murder of Lily Hight was mishandled right from the start: 'Both detectives jumped early. Both detectives locked in on their suspects without bothering to interview anyone who might have given them a deeper perspective and widened their view.'
"Before you can say 'Chinatown' we are immersed in a tale of mind-boggling corruption where virtually every character in the book — with the exception of Lena — has a hidden agenda.
"Ellis is a master plotter who keeps triggering surprises at regular intervals in Lena’s investigation so that most readers will race through the story to find out who is really pulling the strings in this complex two-case mystery.
"Along the way we meet wonderful characters including one of Gamble’s most world weary mentors, the celebrity defense attorney Buddy Paladino, who shares with Lena a bit of advice he heard from the father of his college roommate several decades earlier:
"'He told us that we needed to keep our eyes open. That there are a lot of nice people in this world — lots of nice people — but that doesn’t mean they’re good. Good is special. Good is very rare. You might only meet one or two, three or four, in your whole life. That’s why you’ve got to keep your eyes open. You can’t afford to miss one.'
“'Murder Season' is the first novel that I’ve read by Ellis and I was very happy to learn that it is the third book in a series featuring Lena Gamble. I can’t wait to read 'City of Fire' and 'The Lost Witness.'”
"As we approach the end of 2011, what should slip under the wire but one of the better thrillers of the year? Robert Ellis is not quite a household name yet, but on the strength of MURDER SEASON, his fifth novel, such a destiny seems inevitable. This is a strong, riveting read from beginning to end."
"Reading is often the last thing on even the most seasoned mystery aficionado’s mind during the holidays. Notwithstanding the time of
year don’t put off reading MURDER SEASON for a single day. Within
the space of a few books, Ellis has demonstrated that rare ability to skillfully navigate his readers through a complex plot filled with interesting, dangerous and surprising characters. If you need an escape from the anxiety of the season -- or even if you don’t -- MURDER SEASON is just the ticket."
Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookstore
FAVORITE READS OF 2011
"The first chapter in this novel is truly masterful, and if I were
teaching students a way to write a first chapter that laid in the
themes of the book, set a tone, and did it concisely yet beautifully,
I think I would use this chapter. Fancy writing shouldn't put you off
reading it, however, because to miss this novel would be a crime.
And after setting the tone with the first chapter, 'Murder Season' is off
"'Murder Season' is, at its heart, a kick ass police procedural with lots
of twists. Ellis is also wonderful with characters, and he makes you
care not only about Lena Gamble, but about several other characters
in the book, notably a cop on his way down. Ellis's thoughtful meditations on what's right and what's wrong make this novel a standout. The rest of the series is good, but 'Murder Season' is a cut above."
"With a gritty heroine and a case that swoops and twists all over the
place, Murder Season takes readers on a thrill ride full of hairpin turns
and unexpected obstacles. All of the suspects look equally guilty, and the investigation will challenge your mind while keeping you hooked on the compelling crime story."
"Lena Gamble works for the victim, and she pays no attention to office politics, making her extremely likable. She goes for the throat no matter whose it may be. She gets in the tight spaces and uncovers damaging proof—and she isn’t afraid to drag it into the light for all to see. She’s one heck of a strong character, and I look forward to seeing more of her."
"Murder Season will sweep through your reading hours like a raging,
out of control forest fire. It roars with suspense and growls with
danger—and the unexpected and clever conclusion will leave you with
your mouth hanging open in shock. You might just need to be put on
oxygen after reading this one."
"LAPD detective Lena Gamble is assigned to a double murder in MURDER SEASON, Robert Ellis’ third in the series. It’s a challenging enough assignment, but Gamble quickly learns exactly how tough it is when her own law enforcement allies turn against her."
"She is awakened before dawn to learn that her day off has been canceled. Instead, she is called to immediately report to Club 3 AM, an A-list hangout in Hollywood, where she finds the bloody bodies of two men, both shot to death. One is Johnny Bosco, the club owner and one of the most connected men in town. The other man is Jacob Gant, a 25-year-old recently acquitted of raping and murdering a 16-year-old girl who lived next door."
"Gant’s trial was followed by the entire city and made national headlines as L.A.’s latest “Trial of the Century.” But everyone was stunned and outraged when a “not guilty” verdict was returned, due mostly to the police department’s faulty handling of evidence."
"Gamble’s superiors are immediately convinced that the father of the dead girl killed Gant in a fit of revenge, but ended up killing Bosco in the process. So they lean on Gamble to quickly build the case against the dad and make the whole mess go away before it causes the department more extreme embarrassment."
"Shortly after she begins her investigation, some inconsistencies begin to bother her. Defying her superiors’ orders, she re-examines the original case against Gant. It doesn’t take long for the word to spread throughout the entire department, and Gamble finds herself completely unsupported in her efforts — and a target herself while she searches for the murderer."
"With the original prosecution referred to as a “slam dunk,” and an assumed killer — in the trial of public opinion — set free due to police incompetence, Ellis’ novel can’t help but carry echoes of the infamous O.J. Simpson trial. The author readily acknowledges this in his narrative, as well as other lesser-known cases where the mishandling of evidence resulted in unexpected verdicts. As the story progresses, however, Ellis adds several factors that distinguish this from its predecessors."
"His style is mostly straight-ahead and to-the-point, with some noticeably impressionistic passages that open and close the novel. Yet, at every moment when a conclusion seems obvious, Ellis tosses in twists and surprises that propel the story to different levels, keeping us guessing until the final page."
"The combination of unanticipated revelations and the effectively portrayed sense of utter alienation that eats away at Gamble’s confidence make this the most intense and haunting entry of the series to date."
"What’s certain is that Gamble, thanks to MURDER SEASON, is now among the growing list of female crime-fiction protagonists as worthy of following as any of their male counterparts."
"Scorching. Deliciously twisted." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
P R A I S E F O R
C I T Y O F E C H O E S
Know what a Chelsea Grin is? Readers who stay with Ellis’ powerhouse of a novel are going to find out, and their response to this incredible bit of cruelty is sure to be mixed. Most will side with Matt Jones, Ellis’ hard-bitten L.A. homicide detective, who thought he’d seen everything. Even he is "unable to comprehend how anyone, no matter what their psychological issues . . . could do this to any living thing."
P R A I S E F O R
M U R D E R S E A S O N
Jones is a bystander to the crime that ignites the plot: a teacher’s affair with his student that ends horribly. Why do the arresting officers start dying? Why do murders continue after the presumed killer is caught? Characters multiply and the plot grows ever more complex, but Ellis keeps everything in focus while building a staggering forward momentum. Then a tsunami of revelations and reversals begins, each put forth with stunning emotional force as everything Jones—and the reader—knew for sure is turned on its head. Awesome, as the kids say, but not necessarily right for late-night reading. Not with those Chelsea Grins.
CITY OF ECHOES -- Just read an unbelievably great novel, City of Echoes, by Robert Ellis, on the plane ride to NY. Talk about a page turner. I've been saying for some time now that what separates the pros from everybody else, in novels and screenplays, is the ability to plot. This book has one reveal after another, perfectly set up, with a payoff that hits you right between the eyes. I met Robert years ago when he was first learning the craft. Through hard work and talent, he's become one of the best crime-thriller writers in the world. If you want to learn from the master of plot, or just want a really fun read, pick up City of Echoes. You'll be happy you did.
Author, The Anatomy of Story
Truby's Writers Studio
If you read this blog last year, you know that I read all 27 of Michael Connelly's novels last year. I was curious to see how Ellis would stack up, as they both heavily feature corruption in the LAPD and have similar writing styles filled with twists. Ellis is every bit as good as I remembered. If you've read and enjoyed Connelly, please start reading Ellis. His backlist isn't as extensive, but it's just as good, and City of Echoes is the start of something great with Matt Jones.
Favorite passage: "Two eyewitnesses who had seen everything but, like most eyewitnesses, understood nothing, in spite of their seats in the front row."
The verdict: City of Echoes is a stunningly good police procedural. Jones is a dynamic character, but the mystery and frequent shocking twists take center stage here. If you want a compelling mystery that will keep you guessing, be nearly impossible to put down, and have you eagerly awaiting the next book after the last page has turned, then pick up City of Echoes.
CITY OF ECHOES and LAPD Detective Matt Jones ...
Jones becomes the quintessential loner, the detective working on his own against the establishment. He’s not a white knight, though—his character has some moral ambiguity. It is to Ellis’ credit that he takes readers deep inside Jones’ mind and behavior, so that when he acts out, readers understand why he’s doing it. In fact, I was so totally with him, I did not even see ahead to the consequences of Jones’ actions. That’s pretty close identification with a character, and only really good writers can make you feel so strongly about one.
As the threads of the cases began to draw together with a sizable chunk of the novel left to go, I wondered where Ellis was going with his story. The denouement is powerful, heartbreaking, and explicates Matt’s decisions and character, all at the same time. City of Echoes is another bravura effort from the talented Robert Ellis.
CITY OF ECHOES is a dark, gritty, one-sit read that is well worth your time and energy. Robert Ellis is one of those authors who isn’t a household name --- not yet, anyway --- but makes a rabid fan out of anyone who picks up one of his books. If you like Michael Connelly or Gerald Petievich, you should put Ellis on your must-read list as well.
It’s been a few years since we have had anything from Ellis, a fact that makes the publication of CITY OF ECHOES all the sweeter, if “sweeter” is a word we want to attach to this grim, violent and wonderful novel. Ellis introduces Matt Jones to his constellation in the LAPD firmament. Jones is a detective with extensive military combat background. He had been working in Narcotics prior to his transfer to Homicide. His celebratory dinner is marred by a tragic and ironic murder mere steps from the restaurant where it is to take place. The crime is laid at the feet of the “three-piece bandit,” a polite but elusive holdup man who had been robbing people at gunpoint. The problem is that the three-piece bandit had never injured anyone prior to this.
CITY OF ECHOES is full of surprises. You may guess some of them but not all. Ellis’ trademark plotting is on full display here. Think of a cube of C4 detonated in a closet, and you’ll be close to what he does with his numerous twists and turns.
Jones and Denny Cabrera, his enigmatic partner, begin the investigation despite some unusual pushback from their supervisor and a couple of very slippery detectives. Things get more interesting when a ritualistic murder of a young woman occurs and appears to be similar to two other prior killings. However, an arrest was made in one of those murders, and the suspect, while incarcerated, committed suicide prior to trial. Jones thinks that the police may have arrested and charged the wrong man, a theory that does not go down well with his fellow officers.
Midwest Book Review
Michael J. Carson
Volume 15, Number 11
A riveting hard-boiled murder mystery of the first order, "City of Echoes" is an absorbing and entertaining read from first page to last and documents novelist Robert Ellis as a master of the genre. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of mystery buffs that "City of Echoes" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).