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A-DramaCityAfter eight years in prison for narcotics, Lorenzo "dog man" Brown returns to his home on the back streets of Washington, D.C. Determined to stay clean, he takes a job with the Humane Society. He breaks up illegal dogfights and keeps regular appointments with his parole officer, Rachel Lopez. She’s a livewire who spends her nights in dark bars, picking up rough men. The narrative tracks the two characters at a leisurely place—until a local drug kingpin goes on a rampage that involves them both. Will Brown rekindle his violent past? Can a man, whether good or bad, ever change?
Little, Brown. 304 pages. $24.95.
ISBN: 0316608211

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Drama City may well be the finest example of his recent work … by turning the day-to-day struggles of working people in American cities into a melancholy, rich poetry." Daniel Fierman

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"In the tough, imperiled parts of Washington, where his earlier books have been set, Mr. Pelecanos puts the forces of good and evil on a collision course, igniting the kind of suspense that hinges on heartbreak. … The book’s most frightening thought is that the story’s predators are endlessly replaceable, and that pessimism in their community is justified." Janet Maslin

Chicago Sun Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[He’s] a writer who’s acutely aware of what makes all of his characters tick. … Pelecanos has given us no reason to expect anything less than a terrific ride." Gary Dretzka

Ft. Worth Star Telegram 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Pelecanos often works through the ear: the raw, testosterone-tainted banter of the street, the curt exchanges of officer and citizen, the low-key storytelling of Narcotics Anonymous meetings. … There’s plenty of reality here, but even the groundlings might not have objected to a more elevated tone."
Alan Cochrum

Washington Post 1.5 of 5 Stars
"Pelecanos draws his characters so broadly that he describes none of them adequately. This in turn creates doubt about whether he knows his subjects well enough to capture them." Guy Johnson

Critical Summary

Drama City is the author’s 13th entry in the canon of crime fiction. Pelecanos’s writing earns consistent praise, but his recent novels have changed. While they still pop with the language of the street, his writing is more sparse and his settings are highly modernized. This novel, many critics note, is downright slow, lingering on the everyday details of city life. It’s not a criticism, however. The careful details turn the relatively mundane plot into a persuasive character study, even if Rachel Lopez is a much less successful character than Pelecanos’s other creations, singled out by many reviewers as lacking plausible motivation. That aside, in true Pelecanos style, Drama City sticks to the streets, where grey areas abound.