Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Book Review: "The Double" by George Pelecanos

George Pelecanos may be one of the finest crime writers around, but for reasons I can't quite figure out, he's not nearly as well-known as a number of less talented writers in the genre. While his work on the acclaimed television series The Wire has increased his name recognition a bit, it's a shame that more people aren't aware of the talent this man has to draw magnetic yet flawed characters, compellingly twisted plots, and crackling action.

His latest novel, The Double, is another example of Pelecanos at the top of his game. Young, dogged private investigator Spero Lucas, first introduced in Pelecanos' The Cut, returns. Iraq War veteran Spero works as an investigator for Washington, D.C. attorney Tom Petersen, but with a strong sense of duty to right wrongs, he also does some freelance work on the side. Petersen asks him to find evidence that might exonerate his client, Calvin Bates, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend. All the evidence points toward Bates, but Spero has his suspicions, and will do all he can to track down the truth, or at least give Petersen enough information to raise reasonable doubt among jury members.

Meanwhile, Spero is asked by a friend to help Grace Kinkaid, a woman emotionally and sexually manipulated by her magnetically powerful ex-boyfriend. But the man also took something valuable from Grace—a prized painting—and she wants Spero to get it back. Spero finds that this man is the center of a much larger scam—and he and his partners are just aching for someone to come looking for them. Spero will have his hands full—which is just the way he likes it.

As his work is heating up, his emotions are working overtime. When he meets an older, married woman, he falls hard, even though he knows their relationship has no future. And although he has always been tremendously active in working with and helping other Iraq War veterans struggling with PTSD and life after the war, Spero has never really experienced the side effects of his time in the military, but he is starting to find his mind drifting into places it shouldn't go.

The Double is the story of a man who knows the difference between right and wrong, but isn't above crossing over to the dark side in order to protect someone or avenge a crime. It is also the story of a man who has always been able to hold his life together, until he finally starts to realize he might not be as together as he thinks he is.

Like so many of Pelecanos' books, this is an excellent mix of character development, action, and suspense, and it hooks you from the beginning. Spero Lucas is definitely one of Pelecanos' finest characters—a protector who can't always reconcile his violent and sensitive sides. I hope we'll be seeing Spero again soon, and I also hope that Pelecanos will go back on his one-book-a-year schedule, because I don't want to have to wait too long for the next one!

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