four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
25-Nov-Dec-2006
user_rating: 
0

A-The Night GardenerIn 1985, patrol officers Dan Holiday, T. C. Cook, and Gus Ramone investigate the death of a teenage girl in a community garden in Washington, D.C.—one of several deaths at the hands of "The Night Gardener." Twenty years later, with the serial murders still unsolved, Holiday is a chauffeur taken to drink; Cook has retired; and Ramone is a detective sergeant in the homicide unit. When a teenage boy is found dead in the community garden, the old case reopens. As the three men try to suppress their personal demons, they launch another investigation.
Little, Brown. 384 pages. $24.99. ISBN: 0316156507

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4.5 of 5 Stars
"George Pelecanos has been a gifted writer for a long time, but with The Night Gardener he reaches that sweet spot where talent, experience, and sheer storytelling combine to produce the best book of his career. This novel should be the breakthrough for Pelecanos that Mystic River was for Dennis Lehane." Michele Ross

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"In The Night Gardener, Pelecanos is at the top of his form. … What sets Pelecanos above many of his peers is not that he’s good at revealing what happens, which he is, but he’s exceptional at revealing why." Robin Vidimos

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The Night Gardener is another of Mr. Pelecanos’s beautifully delineated moral tales, filled with gut-wrenching turns of fate and razor-sharp, boisterously vivid characters. … Mr. Pelecanos has a fine way with a felon, and he chillingly captures the blowhard mentality of the would-be criminal." Janet Maslin

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Although The Night Gardener has its share of page-turning virtues, Pelecanos once again shows himself to have ambitions far beyond simply creating a first-rate thriller. … Few other writers working today are able to depict both the lurid realm of street crime and the quiet aspirations of domestic life with such a deft touch." Stephen Amidon

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The plot drifts at times, takes surprising detours and stalls out at key moments—just like the trails of real homicide investigations. … Pelecanos understands the brutality of the criminal’s world, but he also can reveal the anguish and heartache of the victim’s family." Miles Corwin

Critical Summary

In this 13th novel, George Pelecanos returns to the gritty streets of Washington, D.C.—a far cry from Georgetown and Capitol Hill—at the top of his game. Critics agree that Night Gardener transcends the crime-novel genre. While it contains whodunit elements, it’s much more about crime, criminal motivation, and the souls of everyone involved. Authentic descriptions of Washington’s urban landscape, the compelling characters, and the story line’s immediacy make Night Gardener one of the author’s best to date. A few critics noted a meandering plot and stylistic quirks (the victims’ names are all palindromes), but most agreed that Night Gardener "is heart-in-your-throat gripping from beginning to end" (New York Times).