Friday, July 20, 2012

Hell To Pay

by George Pelecanos

The second Derek Strange novel.  While his hot-headed white partner, Terry Quinn, is hired to rescue a runaway girl from a pimp, Strange gets involved in a high-profile murder case after one of the young boys on his peewee football team is shot.  With the police closing in fast, Strange must decide whether he wants the arrogant gang bangers who did the shooting to be arrested, or suffer the rough justice of a vicious drug dealer who has a personal interest in the case.

It’s another solid crime story from Pelecanos, who delivers the seedy underbelly of DC without rose-colored glasses or glorification.  He knows that every person, even the most cruel and unthinking, is a product of his culture and upbringing, so imbues even the minor villains of his story with motivation, rationalizations, and dreams, which makes their condition all the more tragic.  Derek Strange continues to be a fascinating character, a man who is weak in the ways of the flesh but with a noble spirit, a tough guy who doesn’t carry a gun, a man who’s seen a lot of violence and doesn’t want to be the cause of more.  There’s the usual man-out-of-time idiosyncrasies from Pelecanos – both protagonist and antagonist independently muse that CDs don’t have that rich “bottom sound” that vinyl does – but this is a compelling, smart noir that examines hard questions of crime, culture, and consequences without flinching.

four stars

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