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3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,687 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
Fred Underhill is a young cop on the rise in Los Angeles in the early 1950's -- a town blinded to its own grime by Hollywood glitter; a society nourished by newspaper lies that wants its heroes all-American and squeaky clean. A chance to lead on a possible serial killing is all it takes to fuel Underhill's reckless ambition - and it propels him into a dangerous alliance wi ...more
Paperback, 328 pages
Published February 1st 1999 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1982)
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The Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettThe Long Goodbye by Raymond ChandlerFarewell, My Lovely by Raymond ChandlerThe Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
Best Hardboiled PI & Noir
69th out of 530 books — 661 voters
1984 by George OrwellThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerAnimal Farm by George OrwellFahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Cult Classics
441st out of 628 books — 872 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dec 12, 2011 Jeff rated it liked it
Pretty good early Ellroy. Though I had problems with the middle third (the pacing just goes totally dead as he goes into a longwinded, heavily expository backstory), I'd still call this "essential" to anyone (like me) who loved the LA Quartet--as it introduces key characters, like Dudley Smith, and locales, like the Victory Motel, that figure so prominently in the Quartet. In fact, the entire first third reads a lot like the LA Quartet, though a lot less polished. Once the story moves away from ...more
Mar 19, 2008 Andy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: hard-boiled crime fans
Shelves: hardboiled-dicks
When I went to a James Ellroy reading I went through my collection to find a good one I wanted him to autograph. I picked "Clandestine". It's that good! When he signed it, he wrote:

"To Andy -
Doom Dwells!
James Ellroy"
May 22, 2016 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, american
A cracking piece of crime fiction and an early and personal novel from Ellroy after the slaying of his own mother. Here in 50's Los Angles ambitious rookie cop Fred Underhill (who is also too cocky and smug for his own good) tackles a murder case involving a strangled female to try and get a name for himself so he is catapulted up through the ranks, the woman in question was a lonely dame he had recently picked up in bar and spent the night with. Eventually this would lead him to team up with th ...more
Even when reading one of James Ellroy's earliest and most conventional novels, it's easy to understand both why he divides fans of crime fiction so much *and* why he's one of the writers in the genre who have earned the most respect from academic literary circles. "Clandestine" is far from perfect, but mostly succeeds in going even further than Hammett and Chandler in elevating the detective novel to serious literature.

From the first page, you can notice that Ellroy's sensibility is closer to th
Oct 14, 2015 Bobby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, crime, mystery, noir
My first Ellroy book, and it won't be my last but I wasn't very intrigued by this one.

The main character is something of a cipher and mishmash, at first an ambitious good guy but later like a younger Dudley Smith himself without much transitional explanation. Too many characters are too similar both in name and traits. The nine year-old(!) child who nearly looked like a man and acted like a perverted teenage delinquent, what was up with that? Why did our hero "fall in love"
Jan 26, 2014 Cyrano rated it liked it
The fact that this took me over a year to read is likely indicative of something. I'd been wanting to read Ellroy since seeing LA Confidential, and maybe I should have held out for a copy of that.

I really liked the first half of the novel, and the cop who finds that his need for justice is too constrained by the police department. This is the formula that gives you Batman. It's also the formula that gives you Magneto. There's a dangerous line, and unlike many vigilante stories this one admits th
Dec 07, 2010 D'face rated it really liked it
In an interview with Paris Review in 2009, James Ellroy said “If you’re confused about something in one of my books, you’ve just got to realize, Ellroy’s a master, and if I’m not following it, it’s my problem.”

He is indeed a master. His beautiful, lyrical writing of brutal and dark subjects is inspiring. I read this book many years ago and now have re-read it. It tells the story of a young ambitious policeman in Los Angeles who suspects a serial killer is at work in the deaths of two women. In t
Dec 30, 2015 Chris rated it it was amazing
I love L.A. Confidential (the film) so much that I wanted to read a book that evoked the same milieu, the same literary "terroir," while avoiding a retread of the same plot that would inevitably come with reading L.A. Confidential (the novel) itself. What better way to accomplish that goal than by going to James Ellroy's other work? Clandestine isn't one of Ellroy's most widely-known efforts, but possibly because it was one of his earliest, there's a rough-edged "rawness" to the writing that I f ...more
Dan Lemke
Dec 20, 2012 Dan Lemke rated it liked it
Another early work by James Ellroy (see Brown's Requiem review) that is pretty typical of the author's narrative style. Ellroy's prose grows more staccato later in his career, but here (as in the Lloyd Hopkins trilogy) the prose is fairly typical of the genre (partially this is because the book is told from the first person POV). The murders are grotesque without being overly graphic; Ellroy's murders tend to be more offensive than that of Christie or even Chandler, but he knows when to stop on ...more
J. Mark
Jul 02, 2008 J. Mark rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
I haven't looked into where this sits in Ellroy's oeuvre, but it's a bit of a mess.

Plus side: a few of the characters are the most compelling of Ellroy's creations, I really didn't know what was really going on until the last chapter.

Downside: I had a very hard time understanding the motives of the very complex main character, Fred Underhill. Seems that Ellroy was trying to include as many disparate traits in one man as he could get away with, and I don't think he really does get away with it.
Francesco Piras
Jun 02, 2015 Francesco Piras rated it liked it
Secondo libro di J. Ellroy.
Narra l'ascesa caduta e redenzione di Frederick Underhill giovane poliziotto appassionato di golf e bella vita nella Los Angeles degli anni 50.
Deciso a risolvere un caso di omicidio di una sua ex fiamma, Frederick in seguito ad un complotto ai suoi danni all'interno del LAPD, risulta costretto a fare un passo indietro e a ritirarsi.
Il desiderio di vendetta e un caso di omicidio simile lo porteranno a distanza di anni a scovare il vero assassino di entrambi i casi, spos
May 03, 2015 Kris rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed “L.A. Confidential” and “American Tabloid” that I read many years ago. I caught L.A. Confidential on cable a few weeks ago and that whet my appetite for an Ellroy novel. While I was in the bookshop I stumbled across “Clandestine” and realized that several if the characters from the L.A. novels were also in this one.

I was not disappointed. This story introduces a young cop named Freddy Underhill. He is on the rise in the Wilshire district and in an effort to become one of the
El prodigio. Sólo muy de vez en cuando surge en una novela. El autor te atrapa y te lleva allí donde quiere y sólo allí. No están permitidas las disgresiones ni las distracciones, no puedes imaginar, no puedes suponer, sólo leer, página tras página, mientras el autor hace contigo lo que quiere. Sin embargo, y porque sabes que estás siendo utilizado, manipulado, es de esos libros que estás deseando acabar, que termine de una vez. Esto me ha pasado a mí con 'Clandestino'. Pura literatura. El prodi ...more
Mar 01, 2016 Robert rated it liked it
The main character was interesting and had some reality for me. The story was also exciting and moved right along. In many ways, it was familiar Ellroy police procedural stuff, and I didn't like it as well as some of his other books. It was a good read and kept me interested, although the plot seemed a bit contrived. I will continue to read Elroy's books, as this one, while not on the level of L.A. Confidential, did succeed in holding my interest through
to the end.
Jun 04, 2013 Patsy rated it really liked it
This was my first James Ellroy book and I found it intriguing. The characters are all so beautifully flawed it makes them fascinating. The hero Fred Underhill risks his career as an LA Cop in a high profile case that winds up getting him kicked off the force. The crime and it's collateral damage to his life haunt him for years, threatening to destroy his life. Clandestine is a beautifully written who-done-it with unique twists and turns.
Philip Booth
Feb 12, 2014 Philip Booth rated it really liked it
Look up the definition of "hardboiled" in the dictionary, and you'll find James Ellroy. It's the first Ellroy novel I've read all the way through, after making a few starts through some of his other books. He deftly evokes the sun-sprayed corruption of L.A., circa early '50s. The story begins as a rather grisly police/detective mystery, and then shoots off into some surprising directions, at one point taking readers to the Midwest. Several folks are engaged in Very Bad Things, and the protagonis ...more
Mar 25, 2010 THOMAS rated it really liked it
Another early Ellroy. He's circling the Dahlia here...introducing Dudley Smith and all of his psychological mastery. The hero in this one is fairly straightforward - - his only real sin is ambition. Also continues JE's early obsession with golf, which is fascinating. The villain is awesome - - kind of a weird pulp supergenius. It's goofy but cool. This dude's books, man, are just the best.
Riesgo Boudreaux
Sep 02, 2015 Riesgo Boudreaux rated it liked it
Empieza muy bien pero en el último tercio se ralentiza el ritmo sobremanera, decayendo (en mi opinión) el interés por los personajes, creándose un revoltijo de nombres y fechas. Un final bastante bueno y trepidante, adecuado para el personaje. En definitiva se lee con bastante adicción pero queda una historia fácilmente olvidable.
Feb 16, 2008 Carrie rated it really liked it
A fictionalized account of the real-life murder of Ellroy's mother. Read it with his autobiography, My Dark Places, to compare how he writes the same story in fiction/memoir.
Matteo Pellegrini

Los Angeles, 1951. A soli ventisei anni Freddy Underhill è già considerato un poliziotto di grande talento, destinato a una brillante carriera. Un giorno però viene assassinata una donna amica del detective e la polizia incarcera un innocente che, dopo un interrogatorio brutale, confessa e si suicida. Un errore madornale, per cui Underhill viene scelto come capro espiatorio. Lasciata la polizia, l'ex detective va alla deriva, si trasforma in un relitto umano. Ma quando, anni dopo, un'altra donna

Bob Reutenauer
Sep 14, 2014 Bob Reutenauer rated it liked it
Not nearly as masterful as _American Tabloid_ , book 1 in the Underworld Trilogy. This is early Ellroy, and I see long passages of brilliance , but mostly in the first third of book. The rest is uneven, rambling, and circuitously distant (Milwaukee!)f rom the heart and soul of his writing, his oeuvre, the dark noir of--post-war Los Angeles. The friendship of LAPD Officer Fred Underhill and his patrol partner "Wacky" Walker is the dominant feature of the first 100 pages, but ends there. Well done ...more
Sep 22, 2015 Sherrie rated it liked it
Shelves: finished-in-2015
Clandestine isn't amped up on paranoia, hatred, lust, violence, pain and suffering the way Ellroy's other works are - it's only his second novel after all, he was just getting started. He hadn't quite found his jazzy-short-spurt-gunshot-sentences style (as in, there are actual adverbs in this book), but he had found his setting and characters - the LAPD of the post-war era, and the cops who yearn both for justice and their own personal lusts and vendettas. Clandestine is a decent intro to Ellroy ...more
Aug 17, 2014 gaby rated it liked it
Shelves: crime, los-angeles
Ellroy's second novel starts strong - just as strong as any of his later works. Unfortunately, it then meanders through a weakly structured abyss of narrative sideshows, ending with an overly tidy Kumbaya.

All of Ellroy's later moves show clearly in this early work. His steady eye and steady hand dangling the narrative tangles above the blood, guts, and wonder of Los Angeles - a seething citywide hell bog that giveth and taketh away.

Certainly a good read for any Ellroy fan. But not the best pla
William Johnson
Though one story, this is really three books. And compared to the LA Quartet, this appears to be a rough draft for various plot points of that Quadrilogy.

The first part of the book is vintage, LA Quartet level Ellroy in which we follow our hero and his partner through their lives as LA patrolmen.

The second part of the book features three characters from the LA Quartet (including Dudley Smith) and plays out as an ethical character study and commentary on justice, due process and what being a man
è pur sempre un buon hard boiled, ma se messo a confronto con gli altri ellroy (in primis, American Tabloid, che resta il mio preferito) è veramente un brutto libro.
il personaggio di freddy pare un po' troppo raffazzonato, quasi che sia succube degli eventi (nessun ellroy's hero) è succube degli eventi; quello di lorna, invece, sembra troppo abbozzato e poco "pensato". lo spunto narrativo comunque è buono e la trama regge, al limite dell'impossibile, però, con qualche scivolone nel paradosso.
Chuck Briggs
Oct 19, 2013 Chuck Briggs rated it it was amazing
This is an early effort by James Ellroy, although it features one of his best known creations, Detective Dudley Smith. It thought it was a pretty terrific story. Rookie cop James Underhill, ambitious and wanting to rise quickly on the force, spends his off hours chasing leads in hunt of a serial killer. Underhill is portrayed as a ruthless, arrogant intriguer, someone who will stop at nothing to forward his career but is still remarkable sympathetic in his relentless pursuit of the truth..

Set up
Feb 06, 2011 BoekenTrol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: stubee
Recommended to BoekenTrol by: kizmiaz

This book came along as a ring book. Will be reading it soon.

At first I had a little difficulty getting into this book. A diiferent style of writing / placed in a different period with habits and objects I know the name of in Dutch but I'm not familiar with in English.
When I read over / through that, I liked the story.
Somewhere half way though, I thought of putting it down. It as quite violent, brutal and I started to dislike the book because of it. Not be
Tim Niland
Jun 10, 2010 Tim Niland rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010-reads
Fred Underhill is a young policeman in Los Angeles on his way up. By day he keeps the city safe from crime and at night he prowls for loose women and goes looking for "the wonder," a sense of awe that he feels from anything that is new an unusual: from people, nature or crime. Things change dramatically when one of his romantic conquests is later found murdered in the manner that makes Underhill suspect a serial killer may be at work. Underhill has a suspect, and working under a black flag with ...more
Francis T. Villante


I liked the book. it started off slow but then it really picked up. it's main character Freddy Underhill an ex cop goes on a hunt for revenge it gets a little confusing with all of the characters and twists and turns in the plot. overall it was a good read. definitely a book you ha ve to read in a short time or you have to refresh yourself if you take your time in reading it.
Jeffrey Zeltzer
Love LA Noir.

Would give a five star for first half of book. The ambience of early 50s LA is compelling. Police, sly characters and complex dames. Second half gets a 2 star. More typical violence and less fascinating story away from the city. Characters evolve into caricatures. Big fan of Elroy but total package misses the mark.
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James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. His L.A. Quartet novels—The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz—were international best sellers. His novel American Tabloid was Time magazine’s Best Book (fiction) of 1995; his memoir, My Dark Places, was a Time Best Book of the Year and a New York Times Notable Book for 1996. His novel The Cold Six Thousand was a New York ...more
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