Stardust and Bullets
Detective Matt Jones is new to the city of Los Angeles, a great metropolis of shine and glory, a place of glamour for the elite of this world. But at the same time, the magnificent city has another side, the deep, dark, labyrinthine underbelly mired in crime and violence, a place where life is cheaper than everything else. Jones discovers first-hand what the putrid side of the city has to offer as he goes knee-deep in blood on his first night on the job in City of Echoes by Robert Ellis.
This series debut for Matt Jones has the detective assigned to a rather brutal case, that of a man being gunned down with exceptional cruelty in a parking lot on Hollywood Blvd. The police hurriedly attribute this mess of a killing to the work of a serial robber that has been working around in the area, but Jones and his partner, Denny Cabrera, feel there is something more going on beneath the surface. As they start digging, clues begin to pop up linking this crime to a ritualistic murder that happened eighteen months ago. Little do the two detectives realize, they have started to unravel a thread that will take them into very dangerous territories, ones walked by the rich and powerful elite of the city who will do anything to cover up their excesses and indiscretions.
Robert Ellis Brings the Noir
As you can tell by that short summary, City of Echoes is a Noir detective story that brings us back to the black and white days of private sleuths like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, and though it is set in the present day one can easily sense what genre Ellis wants this novel to belong in. One could go as far as saying that it’s a modern take on the Noir genre, including non-traditional elements into the scheme such as a serial killer, gratuitous violence (or at least it feels like it) and a somewhat over-the-top approach. Whether or not it’s an approach that sounds appealing is for you to decide, but as for this specific novel it fits the plot and the characters quite well.
Since we’re already on the subject of characters, our main man Matt Jones is definitely an interesting protagonist with a whole lot of potential for back story. We get to learn a bit about him, where he’s from and what he’s been through, but Ellis makes sure not to reveal all his cards at once, leaving room for more development in the sequels. Unfortunately, the development dedicated to the secondary characters doesn’t come close to that, and as a result some of the people we encounter feel a bit stale or cliched. With that being said, this is one of those books that’s more about the plot and the mystery, so I feel like the author can be forgiven for that transgression.
The plot is certainly strongest aspect of the book, hooking us in with a good old-fashioned mystery, that of a strange and seemingly random death being connected to something much bigger. Twists and turns come at you pretty fast, and while not all of them are entirely believable, on the whole they make for a surprising and exciting ride. It does slow down a bit as you get into the second half of the book and the regular pacing that was established up until then suffers from it. The good thing is that it all eventually culminates in a gripping ending, one that puts a satisfying and memorable end to the mystery.
Is this City Worth Visiting?
With all being said and done, City of Echoes may not be a perfect novel, but despite its few problems it still stands out in the mystery genre as being a strong and enjoyable Noir detective thriller with a modern touch to it. It’s worth reading for the plot alone, and it feels like the future for detective Matt Jones is a promising one. I recommend this book to anyone looking to kill a few evenings with an engaging murder mystery.
Robert Ellis is an American author who specializes in crime fiction after having made a career in film, television and advertising. His works of writing include the bestsellers Access to Power and The Dead Room.