Top positive review
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Another Strong One From George
on 16 August 2001
I've lived in DC for 20 years, my family is from here, and Pelecanos is only the second author I've come across who writes about the DC that I know and recognize (the other Edward Jones, check out his story collection "Lost in the City" if you can find it). In this new book, he steps away from his established characters Nick Stefanos and Dmitri Karras, and launches a new duo, black, middle-aged PI Derek Strange, and younger, white ex-cop Terry Quinn. Through them, and the story of Chris Wilson, an off-duty black cop shot by Quinn, Pelecanos displays the racial awkwardness and tension that pervades Washington, D.C. The central message of the book is that everyone, regardless of race, carries preconceptions with them about other groups. That doesn't make them racist-that term is reserved for those who carry hatred in their hearts.
Strange is hired to investigate the shooting of her son, Chris Wilson, leading him to Quinn, who works in a little used bookstore in Silver Spring (Like all the locations in the book, the store really exists, it's a few blocks from my office and I sometimes swing by on my lunch break). The two men fall into an uneasy partnership as this discover more about he events that led to Quinn's killing of Wilson. They make an engagingly effective odd couple as they verbally spar with one another about race, underneath their respective flaws, they're good men. At the same time, both men are struggling to make relationships work, Strange with his divorcee secretary, and Quinn with a Latina student/waitress. As with most of Pelecanos's men, they often make selfish or simply clumsy moves in looking for love. And like most of those same guys, they have well-defined tastes in music, cars, movies, and books.
Following the tone of Pelecanos's previous work, what is gradually revealed is a sordid tale of drugs and corruption, with some powerful drug pushers, and a few violent rednecks. All this unfolds in a world instantly recognizable to Washington natives, where drug dealers work in the open, neighborhoods revolve around local restaurants, and corruption has spread to even the upscale oases (the well-known high-end restaurant Red Sage being one example). As we have come to expect from Pelecanos, everything comes together in a cinematic violent climax offering some attempt at justice. If you've read and enjoyed previous books of his, you're likely to enjoy this one as well. It's got two great new characters, and is a bit more explicit in examining racism, but is otherwise very much in keeping with his previous work.