Robert Ellis Reviews
"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."
"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."
"Los Angeles, under a cloud of acrid smoke...Robert Ellis´s
City of Fire is a gripping, spooky crime novel."
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."
"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."
R E V I E W S
"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."
'Murder Season': a terrific sick-soul-of-L.A. thrillerJoe Meyers, Connecticut Post / Hearst Media News Group
"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.
"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."
Robin Agnew: 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 and running."
Miami Examiner: TOP 12 BOOKS OF 2011
"Ellis's Lena Gamble is one character readers cannot get enough of. We want more!"
"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."
"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."
"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."
Deadly Pleasures Magazine:
BEST CRIME NOVELS OF 2011
"Scorching. Deliciously twisted." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
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.
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.
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).
"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, she´s real."
Janet Evanovich, People Magazine
"I just discovered this guy. City of Fire is terrific."
"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."
Oline H. Cogdill:
BEST MYSTERIES OF THE YEAR
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
"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."
"This potboiler dishes it out. This book is fast, gruesome and twisted, like a scary Jodie Foster movie. 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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"'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."
"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."
"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."
"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." 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 those Chelsea Grins."
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.
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. 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.
Robert Ellis' Manhunt Masterpiece
THE LOVE KILLINGS is the second book in the Detective Matt Jones series by Robert Ellis, and it follows the same spirit as the previous one, with the flawed inspector going through hell and back to crack an unsolvable case buried beneath layers of smoke, mirrors and deception.
Ellis skillfully builds up on what he already exposed in the CITY OF ECHOES, helping us get closer and closer to Jones. He is far from being a faultless character, but in the end he does have a respectable moral code he tries to stick by. His flaws make him seem very human and at times rather vulnerable, which is something many authors fail to achieve; indeed, Ellis has found a way to make us worry for the main character.
As the chase for Dr. George Baylor begins ... the atmosphere gets increasingly intense and frantic. Baylor makes for an engaging villain, having the brains and brawn to match Jones as well as an intimidating presence in the story. Whether or not he's present in a scene, we constantly feel how much everything revolves around him in the plot. When we do see him, we are constantly aware of the horrors he can cause, and Ellis has done a marvelous job at making us worry for his fate, giving us reason to believe that he may very well evade capture once again.
Once the book goes into full speed and Jones dedicates a hundred and ten percent of himself to getting Baylor we are treated to a non-stop roller coaster ride with its fair share of twists and turns.
Robert Ellis definitely doesn't meddle about with THE LOVE KILLINGS, aiming to offer a traditional and surprising murder mystery without any unnecessary bells and whistles. It's one of the very few novels where you'll find yourself actually concerned and wondering for what fates will ultimately befall the imperfect hero and the sinister villain. It's a thriller of the highest quality that won't let go of your attention, one that gives very high hopes for the future of the Detective Matt Jones series. If murder mysteries are your thing, then add THE LOVE KILLINGS to your collection. I guarantee you won't regret it.
John Truby, September 2016
Question: Do you have any scripts or novels that you would recommend to read for strong narrative drive?
John Truby: One writer, a novelist who took the story class many years ago and began focusing in the novel medium is a writer by the name of Robert Ellis, who writes crime stories and writes just some of the best crime thrillers that are out there today. If you want a master class on how to write strong narrative drive, especially on how to weave a complex, intense plot, take a look at the novels of Robert Ellis. Everyone of them is fantastic. And again, what you want to look for -- get under the surface, go under the hood and see how he's doing it. What you'll see are some of exactly the same techniques we spoke about today, like intense desire line of the hero, like having more than one opponent, including a main opponent who is responding to what the hero does. Again and again, Ellis uses all those techniques, and the payoff is tremendous.
A Los Angeles detective heads to the East Coast to help the FBI track down a serial killer in this sequel.
“Ellis (City of Echoes, 2015, etc.) eases new readers into the second Matt-centric novel. Having previously suffered betrayal, Matt has good reason to be paranoid, which results in a gleefully tense sequel as he quickly notices someone watching him. His relationships are complex … the mystery is straightforward, and Matt’s propensity for repeatedly asking himself questions keeps him (and readers) focused. The author’s writing is tight but descriptive. Though the prose is never unduly graphic, some of the murderer’s actions will likely make some readers queasy. The ending effectively sets the stage for the next installment. A persistently gripping thriller with strong characters.”
The Love Killings
(Detective Matt Jones, Book 2)
The Girl Buried in the Woods
(Detective Matt Jones, Book 3)
In this third installment of a series, a detective’s latest investigation puts him in the crosshairs of a dirty politician and a dangerous man with mob ties.
“With an early focus on the possible murderers, Ellis’ (The Love Killings, 2016, etc.) series entry is more thriller than mystery. The author works this to great effect as the story reveals the burden of unearthing evidence. Ellis generates an impressive amount of suspense … the detective’s frankness also leads to brief conversations that, along with periodic action sequences, provide the book with a swift pace. Although this installment is not closely tied to the preceding two novels, its ending implies that Matt’s multivolume tale is far from over. Solid entertainment.”
Ellis’s writing upholds Henry James’s symbiosis of incident and character, enhanced by his choice of settings, especially in THE GIRL BURIED IN THE WOODS.
In this The Big Thrill interview, he explains how a tragic, real-life incident triggered his interest in crime and crime fiction.
“THE GIRL BURIED IN THE WOODS was inspired by the murder of a young girl, Connie Evans, when I was a 10-year-old boy,” he says. “Her body was found in a shallow grave about a mile from my home. It shook me to the bone. While this is not a story about Connie Evans, her murder was where everything began.”
Writing is defiance, and every book rears up its own challenges while opening opportunities for creative articulation.
“THE GIRL BURIED IN THE WOODS is a complex thriller with multiple opponents,” he says. “Detective Matt Jones is under tremendous pressure throughout the entire story. He’s mending his wounds from books one and two. But even more, the relationships he has with other characters is rich and the experience of writing this novel was pitch perfect.”
The thriller genre has a full history, recognized traditions, and an enticing model which, in skilled hands, can help readers to understand the world in which the stories are set. Ellis’s writing has been further redefining the genre, and more so with THE GIRL BURIED IN THE WOODS.
“First and foremost, there’s a theme,” he says. “The story isn’t about the murders as much as it’s about the world the story and characters are living in. Even more, Matt Jones might be the hero, but he’s also a victim and under constant attack from multiple opponents.”