Review: City of Fire by Robert Ellis

Monday, 17 August 2015
Title: City of Fire
Author: Robert Ellis
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication Date: 23rd November 2010
Pages: 380
Source: Purchased
Rating: 4/5
Purchase: Amazon
When a businessman arrives home to find his wife in bed, carved from belly to throat with a very sharp knife, the elite Robbery-Homicide division of the L.A.P.D responds in full force and Detective Lena Gamble prepares for her first major case.

At first all fingers point towards the victim’s husband, but best-case scenarios only happen in films and it soon transpires that this murder is one of a series of brutal crimes against women and the work of a killer dubbed ‘Romeo’ by the ravenous Hollywood media.

Lena is all too aware of the peril of the public eye - she has found herself in it before, on the night of her rock-star brother’s unsolved murder five years ago. And now she risks a far more dangerous fame as a cloud of conspiracy descends on her investigation and she edges towards Romeo’s deadly line of sight . . .Lena must catch this psychopath before she becomes his next glamorous victim...

When I started reading City of Fire I was reminded of a number of authors because the book had a distinct American feel. Namely two authors that I first borrowed from the library many years ago: Jonathan Kellerman and Joseph Wambaugh. Despite the often horrific crimes you often read about in the genre, the setting of a book is important to me and I loved picturing Los Angeles through David Ellis's writing as he has captured the city brilliantly. Some say crime fiction set in LA is overdone, I disagree.

Detective Lena Gamble is preparing for her first major case, and at first she appears a little hesitant to finally be taking control of her very own case. You can really sense her fears but at the same time an underlying perseverance sneaking through which will hopefully give her that edge that she needs to solve it. Lena is called to a Hollywood Hills mansion where a husband has found his wife slaughtered in their own bed, staged in a horrifically brutal manner. As is usually the case the husband becomes the prime suspect, and we waste some 30% or so on the police going down this obviously false road before the story really gets going. The husband might be guilty in real life, but he hardly ever is in crime fiction.

Despite learning some major plot details early on in the story, City of Fire is still very much a mystery, and for the most part, a really enjoyable one. Especially since running in the background is the story about what happened to Lena's rock-star brother who was murdered five years ago. Somehow or other it seems his murder could be connected to the killings that Lena is investigating, giving her a whole other reason to uncover the full truth. It really is brilliantly done, written in a way to keep every reader guessing and as the book progresses Lena becomes a character you can really root for, and someone you want to see achieve those answers. She's headstrong and to me, really stood out in this packed genre we call crime fiction.

City of Fire was a 'random' find for me, one of those books and authors you stumble across whilst trawling through Fantastic Fiction, but I'm so glad I did and I'll be hoping to continue this series really soon. I recommend the book to fans of Brian Freeman, Jonathan Kellerman and Joseph Wambaugh. Or, just crime fiction fans in general.

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