Sunday, August 20, 2017

19. The Cut by George Pelecanos

The design on this trade paperback is really cool.
The Cut was really great.  It's got all of Pelecanos usual good stuff, the detailed locales of Washington DC and area, the rich characters of young, flawed men, many of them tough and competent, some kind of semi-complex but mostly realistic crime effort.  I suspect the Pelecanos was trying to do a bit of an hommage to Richard Stark here, because it feels sparser and tighter than his other novels.  There are also several references to Parker, some subtle (more like easter eggs for us Parker nerds) and some explicit.

The protagonist, Spero Lucas, is a Desert Storm vet who now works as an investigator for a criminal defense lawyer.  The lawyer for whom he works refers him to one of his clients whose in jail for dealing marijuana at the wholesale level.  The guy, who claims to deal only pot and not use violence, has two young henchmen still working on the street.  Their role is to pick up the weed that gets mailed to various people's houses who are not at home on the day and the distribute those packages out to the lower level dealers.  Somebody seems to have discovered their drops and has been stealing their weed and the big boss sends.  Spero gets sent to work with them and figure out what is going on.  Shit gets messy and the two henchmen get executed.  Spero goes on his own to figure out what went down and to sort of avenge their murders.

It's not pure Stark by any means, as Lucas' brother is a public school teacher and there are young African-American men with potential and complex family issues.  When it digs into the main storyline, which is basically the last third and where the book really gets going, it's just a gang of colurful scumbags as American as apple pie.  The whole criminal enterprise is mundane and realistic and fundamentally integrated into the DC/Baltimore urban landscape.  Really entertaining.

At this point, it's pretty clear for my tastes that Pelecanos is superior to Lehane.

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