Few if any other American writers can capture the rhythms and speech patterns of inner-city streets as well as George Pelecanos. Best known as the lead writer and sometime producer on the celebrated HBO series “The Wire” and later on its successor, “Treme,” Pelecanos has also written 21 novels. The Double, his second outing with Iraq vet Spero Lucas, is his most recent book. It’s an excellent crime novel.
The adopted son of Greek immigrants, Lucas is 28. He is an ex-Marine haunted by his experiences of door-to-door fighting in Fallujah who has returned to his hometown of Washington DC, where he has managed to recapture some of the thrill he felt as a fighter by hiring himself out as an “investigator” who specializes in finding lost things — such things as marijuana stolen from a dealer, as in the first novel featuring Spero Lucas, or, in The Double, a painting stolen from a woman’s home. This is Lucas’ real work, since his cut of the value of recovered property is 40% and what he recovers is invariably high-priced. However, he identifies himself as an investigator for a criminal lawyer — apparently, a lawyer who defends criminals, not one who is a crook himself — as the identity is useful even if the pay is meager.
The Double (Spero Lucas #1) by George Pelecanos ★★★★☆
As Lucas sets out to recover the stolen painting, a work titled “The Double,” he stumbles across a small criminal gang guilty of numerous other thefts and swindles. White getting closer to the gang by working his police contacts, he becomes embroiled in two murder investigations, one for the attorney and the other for his older brother, a schoolteacher. Lucas manages to resolve all three cases more or less satisfactorily but not without an immoderate degree of violence. The Double was not written for children or nervous cardiac patients, so be forewarned.
Last year I was equally enthusiastic in my review of Pelecanos’ debut novel about Spero Lucas, The Cut. George Pelecanos is, simply, one of the very best ever to convey the reality of our cities’ streets to those of us who remain distant from it.
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