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The Cut (Spero Lucas 1)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 31 August 2011
This shortish novel introduces Mr. Pelecanos' new character, Iraq veteran turned private investigator Spero Lucas. He's somewhat more of a man of action than Pelecanos more downbeat heroes -this is indicated in a neat bit of metafiction within a subplot set in an English Literature class, when the students stop reading Elmore Leonard and start on the hardboiled Donald E. Westlake - but otherwise this novel is everything we've come to expect from the author - a tightly plotted procedural, the working class DC setting, exhaustively detailed descriptions of clothes, food and cars, and of course the musical backdrop, Spero being a 70s reggae fan.

A justified criticism of Pelecanos work, I think, is that his heroes are all rather similiar. Like their author, their all deeply into pop culture, (often to a somewhat unlikely degree) fond of eating'half smokes' (whatever they are) at Greek cafes, have issues with their Fathers, etc. I'm not sure that Spero is different enough from Nick Stefanos to have been worthwhile creating, to be honest. But at least, as he's not an alcoholic, we're spared Pelecanos constant moralisising on that score (Though Spero's Mum has four glasses of wine on a Saturday night in order that Pelecanos can have a little tut-tut).

But I digress. Pelecanos has never written a bad novel, and 'The Cut' whilst not one of his very best, is certainly up there with the rest of his output. Recommended.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2011
In THE CUT Pelecanos vividly describes not only the struggle of a returning vet coming to terms with rejoining society, but that of young men in the city in general trying to make a living whilst avoiding crime and violence. The writing is in his usual style that uses little adverbs or descriptive prose, but somehow manages to build up the picture for the reader through the actions and reactions of the main characters. The street life and action scenes are very realistic and the main character both believable in his flawed or guiltless motivation and likeable as a result.

Spero Lucas is a tough Iraq veteran who keeps himself super-fit and on return to Washington finds work with a disreputable defence attorney. Spero is trying to find direction on civvy street and whilst figuring this out uses his talents to recover debts for Tom Peterson's clients. Things get heavy when he is hired to protect drop money for a dangerous crime boss (like there's any other kind) and the bag-men are hit and he becomes chief suspect. Lucas uses his military training to avoid his pursuers and gather forces whilst trying to figure out who is behind it all.

Another great read from Pelecanos that has left me eager for the next!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
THE CUT by George Pelecanos

A very unusual PI Spero Lucas. Doesnt confirm to the usual `image` of tough, (world weary) fictional Private Investigators. He seemed at times, rather nieve. But I half changed that impression, to one of learning the trade. I think in one or two instances in this story, luck was on his side. Yet we all need some of that in life. Possibily, because of the good years of his life, he spent serving in the Marines, Spero seems to adopt an almost juvenille attitude to the women in his life. Not so much an easy come, easy go, but always has his own pre-conceived values of how faithful, or not, he should be. He is loyal to his family. His deceased Father. His friends. And anyone that may have helped him. And his church. Where, in THE CUT, Spero visits often. He says a prayer for the deceased, several of which he has terminated himself. And I thought he was without fear. Until that last, really very good last page in the novel, where he confronts a very dark night time place. And walks right through it.
Its a good plot. Nothing too unusual for a novel of this genre. The action is limited, but there is always the threat of action. And, when it occurs, it is violent.
The story is peppered with street names and locations, in Washington DC, where the novel is set. I found it interesting to Google Earth some of these. Now I have read a Spero Lucas, and find myself oddly intruiged by his character, I shall read another.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2014
The Cut is the first in a projected series of books, which centres around a new character called Spero Lucas; a former military man who is a private eye of sorts--although his speciality is that he finds things, and when he does, he requires a cut of forty percent. But, as with any book like this, Spero Lucas finds trouble and violence before anything else.

The plot is a straightforward one, with a couple minor twists and turns, but the book is strong as a whole. George Pelecanos is gradually progressing as a writer and improving with each of his novels. His prose and dialogue in places can be wooden, but only a line here and there--it's isolated rather than pandemic. His strength is in taking a scenario and injecting rawness and realness into it. His stories are vivid, realistic and atmospheric. There's almost a noir-ish feel to them.

The Cut isn't filled with overblown action sequences and cool plot twists and endless gunfights. It's tight and fast-paced and true.
And although it's not his best, it IS up there with some of his finer work. I recommend it if you want a gritty, street crime novel that's been wrapped in a convenient PI structure.

I'm looking forward to the next in the series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2012
As we have come to expect from George Pelecanos, this is an excellent thriller, but one with a bit of a twist to it. Rather than being a standard police thriller, we are looking at events in the life of Spero Lucas, a Fallujah veteran who has made a niche for himself "finding things" and taking a cut of the proceeds. Spero lives in a rather amoral world where he does not ask too many questions about the legality of what he is being asked to find, so when he is asked to locate some marijuana that has gone missing, he is happy to oblige.
Predictably enough, there are bad guys involved, including petty dealers, would-be gangsters and a bent policeman, and there are of course innocent lives that are being threatened. The book manages to be exciting throughout, but also to have a very convincing cast of characters, both the bad guys and the rest - Spero's Greek family, his occasional girlfriends, his other friends, etc. And there is a very well written closing scene, with all the violence and excitement you would hope for.
The comparisons with Elmore Leonard are both obvious and justified - a very competent and rather unusual thriller.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 August 2011
I've been reading Pelecanos's books for almost 20 years now, and this latest hits all the marks fans of his have to come to love and expect: cars, music, food, movies, crime, the importance of family and fathers, the struggles of young men to become men, and, of course, a street-level view of everyday Washington, D.C. So, if you've previously read and enjoyed his work, this one should be just as satisfying. And if you're a newcomer, this is a fine place to start.

This book introduces a new protagonist, Spero Lucas, the adopted son of a Greek-American family who has returned to D.C. after years as a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pelecanos has touched upon the world of veterans in other books, but this is the first to feature one as the main character. Coincidentally, the last book I read before this was Night Dogs, a blistering police novel about a Vietnam veteran cop in mid-'70s Portland. Its portrait of the struggle of a Vietnam vet to adapt to life outside the war (based heavily on the author's own experiences as a cop) gives great insight into the ways going to war can change people forever, and not for the better.

Here, Pelecanos tackles the same dilemma facing many young people coming back home from America's warzones. Spero spent his youth to the military, and now he's in his late-20s, somewhat adrift in civilian society. He's smart, but has no interest in going to college, and spends his days, biking, kayaking, and working as an unlicensed investigator for a criminal defense attorney at the princely wage of $15/hour. The work is interesting enough, but when one of the lawyer's clients makes a proposition to hire Spero for something on the shady side, Spero is lured in by both the money and the potential risk. And that, as Chapter 1 concludes is when, "the truck began to roll downhill."

What follows is a typically engaging Pelecanos story, full of procedural detail, taking the reader across the city. From a classroom at Cardozo High School (where Pelecanos has done some work with kids), to a VFW post, to eerie warehouses in the far reaches of the city, to the legendary Florida Avenue Grill, he is the foremost guide to the streets and people of Washington, D.C. I used to work right down the block from one area that features in the plot, and I drive and bike through the area Spero lives in on a daily basis, and Pelecanos has the sights and sounds dead on. Speaking of sounds, the music for this book is dub, which is a new territory for him, and if you want some good tunes to accompany your read of this book, pick up Augustus Pablo's King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown, Lee Perry's Blackboard Jungle Dub, or one of the "Heavweight" samplers from the Blood & Fire label.

I suppose the one minor criticism I'd make of the book is that the ending is much "cleaner" than I expected. Without spoiling anything, I will just say that I expected there to be some greater consequences or blowback than there proved to be. However, since this appears to be the launch of a new character and new series, it may be that Pelecanos is going to spend a little time building Spero's world up before heading down that road. A final warning: it's short, you can read it in about three hours, and it's going to leave you wanting more.
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VINE VOICEon 3 November 2013
A little slow a little late with this review but I've just re-read The Cut in anticipation of the soon to be released follow-up (due out 7 November 2013 here in the UK). Pelecanos remains my favourite author of the moment. I am always suckered by his sense of place, detailed characterisation and the tight inevitability of his plotting. This book remains strong on all three of those fronts. I have to say that I enjoyed it a little more on re-reading. In part because I found it easier to get inside the mind of Spero Lucas the second time around. Spero is the protagonist of this one, and is set to be a recurring lead character in the vein of past Pelecanos leads Nick Stefanos, Karras and Clay and Strange and Quinn. I'm excited to see Pelecanos returning to serialised work after a run of excellent one off novels.

Spero is another slightly different take on the investigator. His day job is working for defence attorneys and his sideline is in recovering stolen goods for a 40% cut. He is a young army veteran still enamoured with the adrenaline rush of violent action. His career and his thrill seeking puts him in morally ambiguous territory that lends the book a modern noir edge. In this one Spero takes a side job recovering stolen marijuana shipments for an imprisoned dealer and finds himself going head to head with a group of gun runners who are moving in on the business.

Scattered amongst this investigative arc are Spero's relationships with his fellow veterans and his adoptive family. His grief at having lost his adoptive father and his close relationship with his brother are both affecting and well drawn. Pelecanos is the patriarch of an adoptive family himself and his insight translates well into his characterisation here.

I thoroughly recommend the audio book version which is read by The Wire alumni Dion Graham (he played recurring character Rupert Bond on the show) who has done fine work on several previous Pelecanos audio books. If you've not read any Pelecanos before then this is a fine place to start although one of the completed series might be more satisfying to burn through. If you already know the author then this is another fine work that is well worth your time.
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on 18 June 2015
I read a couple of luke-warm reviews of this book below and was prepared for disappointment after years of enjoying George's books.

I have no idea which book those folks had been reading - or what they had been expecting - but it wasn't The Cut.

This is a great tale and up to George's high standards. Someone mentioned that there is a lot of dialogue and that is true, but then that applies to all of GP's books. It isn't 'action on every page' but you can feel the tension rising as the tale builds and moves along and you just know that something grisly is coming (and it does!).

The descriptions of seedy back-street Washington DC are as fine as ever and (to this white middle-class Englishman's eyes) rather 'exotic'. Simple descriptions of food and drink are enough to transport you to a place you've never been nor are probably ever likely to go. The music references too are (as ever) spot on. Just hearing references to Augustus Pablo, Fred Wesley and Black Uhuru is enough to make need to play them as you read.

I really like Spero (our new hero), he is young enough to make the action scenes feel real and has a depth of character that makes his actions (the sort that a normal person would not ever consider) feel 'right'. He is quite the 'ladies man' too!

Can't wait to read more tales of Spero - it was a brave step for GP to bring in a new hero (but then he has done so a couple of times in the past) and it has really paid off.
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on 15 January 2014
I have read various Pelcanos books over the years and they have varied in quality. I decided to read this one because of the great reviews it received. The hero, Spero, an Iraqi war vet appears to have a moral vacuum that is made up for by his adopted brother who is a teacher in a school in a poor area. A sort of bad guy good guy pairing. Spero has a very odd family situation and is fixated on his dead father. The story is slow to start with and appears more to do about the roads of Washington DC, restaurants, breakfast places, bars, cars, clothes and music. Spero has the time to indulge himself with cycling and kayaking and bedding women. The plot has a hard time getting a look in and to me is weak - the main baddie being an unlikely character whose son also has a hang up about his father - but the opposite of Spero one he can no longer respect. I know that the current vogue for detective novels is to exult regionality but Pelcanos has gone completely OTT with Washington DC - it felt like sitting listening to a GPS telling you what roads you are travelling on - to the point I thought that this was all padding to eke out a thin plot and poor characters. There are a lot of crime writers who write way better than this. Pelcanos himself can do a lot better - totally over rated in my opinion
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I am an admirer of George Pelecanos and his body of work so was eager to read his latest novel - The Cut - featuring Spero Lucas, a 29-year-old Iraq War veteran who undertakes investigative work on an ad-hoc basis for a Washington, D.C. Defence Attorney.
Spero's core skills are recovering stolen items for a sizeable Cut i.e. 40%!
The story centres on an Drug Dealer who is serving time, who has become aware of Spero Lucas and the way he operates and wants to hire him.
He advises Spero that a number of packages of drugs (mainly Marijuana) have been stolen from the front of residential properties and wants Spero to find out what's going on.
The story involves you with Spero's family especially his brother who is an exact opposite to Spero but acts as a counterbalance for him.
Along the way Pelecanos introduces a number of unsavoury characters including a bent Cop.
It's fast paced and easy to read and Spero is, in some ways, an unusual but engaging character.
Spero is, I believe, to feature in futher books from GP so I will be eager to see how he develops this character.
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