George Pelecanos, The Cut
2011 | Label: Hachette Audio
A post-modern detective novels set in D.C.’s tumultuous underworld
Spero Lucas, star of George Pelecanos’s The Cut, is a war-tested sex magnet oozing machismo…who also happens to be a foodie and a lover of literature. Officially, he works for a defense attorney gathering evidence. Unofficially (and far more lucratively), he hires himself out to people looking to recover stolen property. His fee is 40 percent of the value of what he recovers, and when, at the start of the novel, he’s hired to search for stolen drugs, the titular cut promises to be quite a haul.
Having been employed by a D.C. marijuana dealer already serving time, Lucas finds himself involved with the two low-level members of the drug trade who bungled the original pickup, as well as far more sinister elements of Washington’s crime scene, including a couple of incredibly violent murderers. In constructing Lucas’s search, Pelecanos draws interesting parallels between the greed-driven amoral brutality of the criminals and his hero’s adrenaline junkie tendencies. An Iraq war veteran, Lucas is somewhat aimless in the aftermath of his tour — except when he’s immersed in the city’s tumultuous underworld.
Those who come to this novel as fans of Pelecanos’s writing on The Wire will appreciate the subtle references to the state of race relations both in the District as a whole, and in Lucas’s family in particular. Lucas, the adopted son of Greek-Americans, has three brothers — two black — whom he loves, and for whom skin color is a complete non-issue. They’re family, after all. For its part, D.C. comes across as an equal opportunity crime scene. In pursuing their trail, Lucas realizes that the mixed-race pair of murderers would be “attractive to clients. Either one of them could go into certain neighborhoods without arousing suspicion.”
The Cut looks to be the starting point for a new series featuring Lucas, his family, and his city. If the rest are as fascinating as this post-modern detective novel, Pelecanos will cement his standing as one of the era’s greatest crime authors.