Cosmopolitan neighbourhoods are a Pelecanos speciality. He explores them, opens up the streets and peers inside the houses. What he finds are “Chinese greasepits, pawn shops, high-priced convenience markets and high-fee check cashing establishments, the kind of places that kept folks unhealthy, broke and low”. Their inhabitants are united in the fight to get by. In the midst of these is Spero Lucas, ex-marine, “a young man with appetites”, finding lost items for a defence attorney and getting in deep when he sets out to discover who has been taking a cut from a local drug drop.
A dense web of detail woven around family, friends, neighbours, bands and slang plants us clearly in Lucas’s life, making him someone to care about. Rather than merely surviving, Lucas enjoys the streets, acting as a guide to a world that, in less expert hands, would feel over-familiar from TV shows. This is gold-standard character-driven crime writing that few will ever match. I can’t wait for the sequel.
The Cut, by George Pelecanos, Orion, RRP£12.99, 304 pages