three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
55-Nov-Dec-2011
user_rating: 
0

A-The CutToday, George Pelecanos is as recognized for his Emmy Award–winning writing and producing on the hit series The Wire, The Pacific, and Treme. But it was his hard-edged crime novels--including Soul Circus (2003), Drama City ( 3 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2005), and The Night Gardener ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection Nov/Dec 2006)--that got him those jobs. The Cut, Pelecanos's 17th novel, is the debut novel in the series featuring freelance finder-of-lost-things Spero Lucas.

The Story: Even with "no duties, no mission, no cause," ex-Marine and 20-something Iraq war veteran Spero Lucas is a righteous dude: he loves his adoptive mixed family, keeps himself in great shape, possesses an unerring sense of justice, and has a way with the ladies. But he doesn't work for free. In fact, for a fee, he'll find just about anything--legal or not. When Lucas gathers information that exonerates the son of Anwan Hawkins, a known drug dealer, in a stolen-car case, Hawkins hires Lucas to track down some missing product. Along with the dealer's young deliverymen, Lucas, who will take 40 percent of whatever he finds, dives headlong into the seedy underbelly of Washington, D.C., a city he knows too well. But the corruption and degradation that he finds there surprises even him.
Little, Brown. 304 pages. $25.99. ISBN: 9780316078429

The Millions 4 of 5 Stars
"[Pelecanos's] latest, The Cut, is out this week, and if you are a guy, have ever wondered what was going on in a guy's head, or just like sharp, well-written crime fiction with a point, you owe it to yourself to check it out. ... Pelecanos returns here to the P.I. procedural a stronger, more interesting novelist, not just in terms of his prose and his characters, but in terms of his reach and ambition." Michael Bourne

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Pelecanos clearly knows that he is in the business of entertainment, and he goes about it in a thoroughly professional way. ... A book that entertains can also enrich, instruct and even enlighten." Jonathan Yardley

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The Cut leaves Spero in a poignant type of limbo. ... Whatever he is, he's not a callous mercenary." Janet Maslin

Los Angeles Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Where Pelecanos has excelled at character and plot, he's gone a little thin on the prose itself. ... In Spero Lucas, he's got a promising character--as long as he goes all in." Carolyn Kellogg

Oregonian 2.5 of 5 Stars
"When George Pelecanos is at the top of his game, you get early jolts of The Wire, Emmy nominations, The Turnaround and Stephen King crooning about ‘perhaps the greatest living American crime writer.' ... Even when Pelecanos is misfiring, his writing has a fine rhythm, particularly when the novelist is taking readers on guided tours inside the Beltway." Steve Duin

Critical Summary

Early in his career--say, a decade ago--George Pelecanos, who even then had a handful of well-crafted novels under his belt, flew under the radar with casual readers. With Soul Circus and The Night Gardener, among other topnotch efforts, that changed. Now, as one of a generation of multitasking writers striking while the iron's hot with work in television as well as on the printed page, Pelecanos runs the risk of undercutting his signature style, an irresistible combination of compelling characters and homage to his gritty, flawed Washington, D.C. Even if critics are less taken with the author's prose in The Cut than in previous novels, Pelecanos's descriptions of the city and its inhabitants are never less than evocative, and in Spero Lucas, he offers a timely hero. It's too early to christen Lucas the next Marlowe or McGee, of course, but in the skilled hands of a writer like Pelecanos, readers can rest assured that he'll return, bigger and better.