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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 November 2013
I am an avid fan of George Pelecanos and always look forward to this time of the year which holds the promise of a new book from him, so was as keen as mustard to read this follow-up to The Cut featuring ex-soldier and private investigator Spero Lucas. Unfortunately, The Double didn't quite live up to my expectations, comprising mostly of sex, cycling, a bit of canoeing, sex, a murder investigation, sex and a missing painting, but here are my thoughts...

There can be no argument that Lucas is a wonderful creation being a true man's man and combining a mix of moral ambiguity, showing moments of charm and empathy underscored by a propensity for violence and womanising. The tables are turned nicely in this one with Lucas being called upon for his prowess in the bedroom by a sexually voracious married woman (a neat re-working of the McNulty/D'Agostino storyline from The Wire) but despite his growing infatuation discovers that there is little else to this relationship. Hence, a large part of the book is devoted to this mismatched physical relationship, while Lucas struggles with matters of the heart (or in his case- the trouser department) and endeavours to put his mind to what he should actually be doing. The central plot is also somewhat undone by the focus on Lucas' other physical activities with his seemingly endless scenic cycle trips, where each location is dutifully pointed out and described in some detail, that quickly lost my interest, as I was more keen to return to his tracking down of the bad men doing bad things. Where the book got back on form for me, was seeing Lucas in his tough guy role, with the references to both his former soldiering career and the interaction between him and his other ex-military cohorts, as the race to track down a nasty, violent group of con-artists got into full swing. Additionally, Pelecanos is great on the socio-political side of his plotting, and the observations he makes on the US involvement abroad and the social decline of certain areas of Washington DC outside the corridors of power is as sharp and focused as usual. Lucas is commissioned to investigate a possible miscarriage of justice, seeking to try and prove a man innocent of a murder, but to me this plotline was slightly lost and unbalanced within the central narrative, as his other mission to recover a stolen painting from an emotionally unstable woman took precedence in the story. I would have liked the book to have been concerned with one or the other, rather than producing a weakness to both strands in a relatively slim book so in short a rather mixed affair all round.

The book is peppered throughout with Pelecanos' trademark cultural references to music, films and books and I liked the quote that reading should comprise of " a good story with clean, efficient writing, a plot involving a problem to be solved or surmounted, and everyday characters the reader could relate to". Although The Double does not quite fit this manifesto on some levels for this reader, it was nevertheless good to see the return of the entertaining Spero Lucas in a generally engaging, though slightly patchy read, from one of my favourite American crime authors.
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on 29 November 2013
I have thoroughly enjoyed George Pelecanos's books until the last three where he seems to have rushed the stories. Although some might find the detail he went to in earlier books irritating, I liked it as he built excellent characters around this detail with believable plotlines, however his recent books seem rushed as if he has been asked to produce so many books within a certain timeframe. I gave the book three stars because I like Pelacanos and measured against others, it is still an interesting read but not a 'can't put it down' book like many of his others. I did start to wonder if his writing for television was impacting his novels as they are starting to read like 'potential' film scripts. The Spero Lucas character had and still has a great deal of potential but currently there is little depth to him and he is in danger of being a not to believable substitute for Pelecanos's heroes of the past.
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on 6 July 2014
I have enjoyed previous books by this author, but I was not sure whether this book should be under the heading of Thrillers - it was more soft porn in words. Frankly it has rather put me off reading future books by this author. If I wanted to read about sex, written explicitly, I would buy the appropriate book.
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It's a mystery and a thriller, so I can't give away the plot, but the writing is tight and efficient, with good dialogue. Also, the book isn't too long, and that's impressive, when you consider that the protagonist, Spero Lucas, has got a number of irons in the fire. I thought the book was structurally and thematically interesting. "The Double" is the title of a stolen painting that Spero is charged to recover, but the story plays with other possible doubles, including some for Spero himself, an ex-Marine private investigator working in a rapidly gentrifying Washington, DC. The question is often raised about the degree to which, if any, he has been damaged by his experiences in Iraq. He is not obviously a PTSD case -- and yet . . . But on the other hand, there are characters, male and female, whose motivations seem quite similar to Spero's and who have never seen any military action. So if Spero is "damaged," what does that make them? And what are we to make of a number of peripheral women characters, including Spero's mother, all of whom drink a LOT of wine? Another thing I like about the book is that it doesn't tie up every loose end. Spero has his successes and his failures and his in-betweens. That could possibly set up issues for succeeding volumes, but there's something plausible about that lack of "neatness." I enjoyed it. As some reviewers noted censoriously, there is a good bit of sex and violence. I would argue that in this book, it isn't gratuitous but is revealing of the book's moral and psychological concerns.
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George P Pelecanos is familiar to most of us as a writer for two television series, 'The Wire' and 'Treme'. 'The Wire' is known as the best television series ever written, but never earned any Emmys. 'Treme' can say the same, why, I have no idea. I loved them both. Pelecanos is also known as a mystery writer, and he is one of the best. This novel is the second of a series about Spero Lucas, a young war vet from DC.

Spero Lucas is a young man with young man appetites. He is a veteran of the Afghanistan War, and most of his friends are Vets. Spero works for a lawyer as a private investigator, and, it seems, this kind of work is very conducive to Vets, they understand the territory and what it might involve. Spero is a thorough, intelligent man, and as an investigator he is invaluable. He also does work on the side, usually word of mouth garners him these jobs. He is asked by a bar tender friend to help a friend of hers who lost a valuable painting to an ex-boyfriend. This job leads him down a dark path, and we hope he recovers. One of Pelecanos's strengths is his ability to incorporate detailed descriptions of his characters. A little back story to each character is embedded somewhere in the storyline. So, we feel, we have some insight into the ways of these characters and their behaviors. Spero is able to track those he is looking for, he uses GPS, several computer programs, and we are privy to these dot coms.

In this novel, Spero is attracted to a beautiful woman, who is married. Explicit scenes of their attraction are available, and it lends credence to the young man's appetites, and to the undeniable attraction from both sides. Spero has morals and ethics, and he also experienced Afghanistan from the side of extreme violence. This is explored in detail at times, and we find Spero examining himself, how he justifies his actions and whether those actions are really justifiable. Finding his way, leaves it open for more novels.

Pelecanos explores the life of Veterans who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq. The injuries, physical and emotional, most of them suffer from PTSD. All looking for a meaningful life, and that means a good job. One vet explains the situation when talking with Spero about the free baseball and football tickets. The Fact that Vets are present are exclaimed over the loudspeaker, with resounding applause, but no one comes over to talk, or ask how they're doing. Invisible most times to the world.

Pelecanos also explores all areas of DC, with Spero leading the way on his bike. Spero bikes everywhere, he is physically active, and we see areas of DC, we would not ordinarily visit. Spero also kayaks, and we see more of DC and the surrounding areas.

Spero Lucas is a man who captures our heart. Finding his way, with his brother, Leo and his mom's support. He is not a hero, but a man looking for himself. Violence, s*x, good food and drink, hard work, friends, that is what life is all about. Bring it on, Spero.

Recommended. prisrob 04-01-16
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on 5 January 2014
I am an avid George Pelecanos fan - my only slight disappointment with this novel was that I felt it was more of a "man's" book rather than his previous novels which I believe appealed to both men and women. This may well be a subjective criticism but it is said with all honesty - I still enjoyed the story as only Mr Pelecanos can tell the tale.
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on 7 April 2015
A decent read on its own merits, but not classic Pelecanos. More of a teen thriller with a little sex and hard violence; some righteous, some not. For some strange reason it reminds me of gangster rap music, all that posturing about mindless violence with misogynistic overtones.

I was an avid reader of GP's earlier work, with their detailed characters, period references and social/economic settings. His latest work feels rushed and rather shallow in comparison. It leaves me wondering if GP feels the same urge and inspiration to write as he once did, or if the fire has gone out and it has become a 9-5 job.
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on 31 December 2013
usual stuff from Mr Pelecanos. low life characters, descriptions of Washington, music references and interesting plot. I still prefer his earlier stuff hence only 4 stars
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on 6 January 2014
Fantastic dialogue and doom-laiden storylines again. And as violent as ever.
I can see Spero becoming a long-term character along the lines of Nick Stefanos.
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on 30 June 2015
Take out...
the lists of favourite authors, films, music etc, the details of every route taken on every journey, whether by car, bike or kayak, the brand names of each and every item in the book and all the descriptions of clothes (do I really need to know what each character is wearing every minute of every day, let alone what shop the clothes came from?)
... and you're left with a decent, although much shorter, book!

I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
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