Hard-boiled detective: The Cut by George Pelecanos

Spero Lucas navigates the dark streets of Washington, DC, with the ease of Philip Marlowe in L.A. He is an independent investigator — not a licensed private eye — who divides his time between work for a criminal defense lawyer and his own off-line clients. In The Cut, we see Lucas at work on an ill-advised project for a big-time marijuana dealer: to recover three stolen shipments of pot for a 40% cut of their value.

Adopted at an early age by a working-class Greek-American family, Lucas gained a new first name, an intimate knowledge of his home town, and loving parents who would be the envy of many natural-born children. Though well-read, he’s street-smart, not book-smart, and he has little patience for sitting still in classrooms. Now 29, Lucas is an ex-Marine who was in the worst of the house-to-house firefights in Fallujah.

The Cut (Spero Lucas #1) by George Pelecanos ★★★★☆

Lucas’ search for the missing pot embroils him in an increasingly complex affair that includes a crooked cop, several other police department employees, the pot dealer and his adolescent son, a high school boy who shares his love for film, and a ruthless criminal gang that deals in guns and marijuana. The story is gritty and violent, involving the murder of six of the book’s leading characters. Along the way he becomes romantically involved with a pretty young law student and a practicing copyright lawyer, both of whom affirm his intelligence as well as his energetic performance in bed.

About the author

George Pelecanos is to Raymond Chandler as Spero Lucas is to Philip Marlowe. In today’s pantheon of crime writers, Pelecanos stands out for his extensive work on the HBO series The Wire (for which he served as producer and writer) and Treme as well as his 18 crime novels, mostly set in Washington, DC. His writing is distinguished by his mastery of street-level African-American speech and other aspects of the underbelly of American society.

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