Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Cut

by George Pelecanos

Iraq vet Spero Lucas, living in DC, makes money doing jobs for a defense attorney.  He also runs a side business recovering stolen property.  When a weed dealer asks him to recover some stolen packages worth a hundred grand each, Lucas gets on the case.  Two dead hustlers later, Lucas realizes that this case involves dirty cops and some bad guys willing to murder to keep the money flowing, and they know who he is.  Relying on his training, some vet buddies, and a deep-seated, barely-formulated rage at injustice, Lucas makes sure someone pays, and he gets his cut.

This was a terrific, suspenseful page-turner.  Pelecanos is a writer on the ultra-realistic street series “The Wire” and “Treme,” and there’s a lot of street cred in these pages.  Pelecanos doesn’t shy away from race issues, and he knows the gritty details of seemingly everything: every street in DC and all the little details of street life, from ammunition to the clothes kids covet, and music, from the Stones to the Hold Steady down to some very obscure bands.  I made a rather smarmy remark about Christianity precluding gritty realism when I reviewed the appallingly bad Midnight Rambler, but Pelecanos makes his anti-hero Lucas a man of quiet faith, if loose morals, raised in the Greek Orthodox church, so… that showed me, I guess.  I did find one scene in the book, in which Lucas is attacked with a knife (instead of a gun) by a professional killer who has absolutely no reason to give Lucas this chance to win, to be a jarring misstep compared to the rest, in which Pelecanos plays the danger straight.  And the endings, that is, the separate resolutions of three or four loose ends, are supremely satisfying.

four stars

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