One of the 1990s' rising stars of crime fiction delivers a bold, brilliant tale of mystery, revenge, and survival in the 1980s, when cocaine and money ruled the city streets and even the good guys wanted a piece of the action.
Pelecanos (King Suckerman) lays a fair claim to be the Zola of Washington, D.C. The latest of his thrillers, which use a recurring cast of ordinary Washingtonians to chronicle the city's decline since WWII, brings us to 1986, when Vietnam vet Marcus Clay, founder of ("African American Owned and Operated") Real Right Records, and his employee and best friend, aging Greek-American cokehead Dmitri Karras, witness a grisly car accident outside Clay's newest record shop on the struggling U Street strip. A suburbanite, in town to score blow from Karras, steals $25,000 in drug money from the car and inadvertently starts a race between local hoods and dirty cops--to get the money back and avenge the theft--that jeopardizes the neighborhood's fragile peace. As always, the intertwined fates of black and white Washington inform the fates of Pelecanos's individual characters, and if he cooks up saccharine subplots for his protagonists, the city's large and small tragedies--its crack epidemic, the overdose of local hero Len Bias, the disgrace of home rule, the withering of D.C.'s last independent music scenes, the ugly segregation of the place--cut the sweetness and haunt the compelling main plot from beginning to end. With characters for whom the White House is just a tourist attraction, Pelecanos is that rare bird among Washington novelists, a writer who loves and knows the city he writes about.