Every man has his dark side... Spero Lucas confronts his own in an explosive thriller from the writer of the award-winning THE WIRE.
Spero Lucas is a young Iraq war vet now working as a PI in Washington DC. He's hired by a young woman to find a painting she lost after being scammed by a super-smooth con-artist. Spero tracks the painting down, but the con-artist is part of a team of ruthless thugs, and the woman who hired Spero is brutally attacked as a warning to stay away.
The warning doesn't work. Spero is angry and he goes on the offensive, taking out the gang one by one. But where do Spero's remorseless killings sit on the morality scale? Is he defending an innocent woman? Or have his experiences of war turned him into a ruthless killer, no better than the crooks he's up against?
Reviewed by Patrick Millikin Pelecanos's novels have always kept one eye toward the recent past a constant touchstone being the 1970s. The decade's popular culture, its fashion, film, music, and automobiles inform novels such as Hard Revolution, King Suckerman, and What It Was, which are set during one of the most tumultuous periods in the nation's history. In a way, all the novels that Pelecanos has written have been influenced by the Vietnam War. Now Pelecanos, a producer of The Wire and Treme who's also written for both HBO shows, has given us a new series that brings us right up to the present. With Spero Lucas, introduced in 2011's The Cut, Pelecanos has created one of his finest, and most complex, protagonists. An Iraq War combat veteran, Lucas has seen more than his share of death, but, unlike many of his returning peers, he has found work that allows him to tap into the heightened levels of adrenaline that were awakened overseas. His primary gig is as investigator for D.C. defense attorney Tom Petersen, who gives him a difficult case at the outset of this sequel to The Cut. A client, Calvin Bates, faces the death penalty for the first-degree murder of his mistress, Edwina Christian, whose body has been discovered in a nearby wooded area. Inconsistencies in the case, including physical evidence at the crime scene, have Lucas convinced that the story might not be as cut-and-dried as it appears. In the meantime, Lucas has found himself another side job, the retrieval of a stolen painting called The Double from a young divorc e's condo. His usual terms apply: 40% of the stolen item's value, in cash, no questions asked. The trail leads Lucas to a trio of thugs working together on various criminal enterprises: a Russian Internet scammer, a sociopathic lothario preying upon vulnerable women, and a young ex-con and former tweaker. As Lucas follows the various strands of his investigation, he finds himself enjoying the hunt, the prospect of violence that will result as he lures his quarry into the open, and the inevitable confrontation. Indeed, the painting itself becomes an apt metaphor for Lucas's life: the "civilized," outward identity and the darker shadow self, containing a primal warrior side that, as Pelecanos writes, he doesn't fully understand. While several of his most trusted friends, fellow Marines, have been able to leave the violence in them behind, Lucas has been unable to do so. Further complicating matters is a gorgeous, unavailable married woman, with whom Lucas has fallen into a passionate affair. At the background of the novel is Lucas's own family, his mixed-race siblings, his Greek-American parents. Pelecanos puts the race issue out there, but doesn't focus on it; the Lucases are simply a family, and a loving one. With respect for D.C.'s past on one side, and a vibrant, youthful new protagonist looking squarely into the future, this is the start of a remarkable series. Longtime Pelecanos diehards will be more than satisfied, and new readers will find themselves jonesing for more. Patrick Millikin is the editor of the Akashic anthology Phoenix Noir.