The Double (Spero Lucas Series #2)

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Every man has his dark side...Spero Lucas confronts his own in the most explosive thriller yet from one of America's best-loved crime writers.

The job seems simple enough: retrieve the valuable painting--"The Double"--Grace Kinkaid's ex-boyfriend stole from her. It's the sort of thing Spero Lucas specializes in: finding what's missing, and doing it quietly. But Grace wants more. She wants Lucas to find the man who humiliated her--a violent ...

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The Double (Spero Lucas Series #2)

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Every man has his dark side...Spero Lucas confronts his own in the most explosive thriller yet from one of America's best-loved crime writers.

The job seems simple enough: retrieve the valuable painting--"The Double"--Grace Kinkaid's ex-boyfriend stole from her. It's the sort of thing Spero Lucas specializes in: finding what's missing, and doing it quietly. But Grace wants more. She wants Lucas to find the man who humiliated her--a violent career criminal with a small gang of brutal thugs at his beck and call.

Lucas is a man who knows how to get what he wants, whether it's a thief on the run--or a married woman. In the midst of a steamy, passionate love affair that he knows can't last, in pursuit of a dangerous man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, Lucas is forced to decide what kind of man he is--and how far he'll go to get what he wants.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
It's astonishing all the good stuff Pelecanos can pack into one unpretentious book: meaty substance, multiple story lines, vital characters, choice dialogue and all those descriptive details…that make the story so rich.
Publishers Weekly
Reviewed by Patrick Millikin Pelecanos’s novels have always kept one eye toward the recent past—a constant touchstone being the 1970s. The decade’s popular culture, its fashion, film, music, and automobiles inform novels such as Hard Revolution, King Suckerman, and What It Was, which are set during one of the most tumultuous periods in the nation’s history. In a way, all the novels that Pelecanos has written have been influenced by the Vietnam War. Now Pelecanos, a producer of The Wire and Treme who’s also written for both HBO shows, has given us a new series that brings us right up to the present. With Spero Lucas, introduced in 2011’s The Cut, Pelecanos has created one of his finest, and most complex, protagonists. An Iraq War combat veteran, Lucas has seen more than his share of death, but, unlike many of his returning peers, he has found work that allows him to tap into the heightened levels of adrenaline that were awakened overseas. His primary gig is as investigator for D.C. defense attorney Tom Petersen, who gives him a difficult case at the outset of this sequel to The Cut. A client, Calvin Bates, faces the death penalty for the first-degree murder of his mistress, Edwina Christian, whose body has been discovered in a nearby wooded area. Inconsistencies in the case, including physical evidence at the crime scene, have Lucas convinced that the story might not be as cut-and-dried as it appears. In the meantime, Lucas has found himself another side job, the retrieval of a stolen painting called The Double from a young divorcée’s condo. His usual terms apply: 40% of the stolen item’s value, in cash, no questions asked. The trail leads Lucas to a trio of thugs working together on various criminal enterprises: a Russian Internet scammer, a sociopathic lothario preying upon vulnerable women, and a young ex-con and former tweaker. As Lucas follows the various strands of his investigation, he finds himself enjoying the hunt, the prospect of violence that will result as he lures his quarry into the open, and the inevitable confrontation. Indeed, the painting itself becomes an apt metaphor for Lucas’s life: the “civilized,” outward identity and the darker shadow self, containing a primal warrior side that, as Pelecanos writes, he doesn’t fully understand. While several of his most trusted friends, fellow Marines, have been able to leave the violence in them behind, Lucas has been unable to do so. Further complicating matters is a gorgeous, unavailable married woman, with whom Lucas has fallen into a passionate affair. At the background of the novel is Lucas’s own family, his mixed-race siblings, his Greek-American parents. Pelecanos puts the race issue out there, but doesn’t focus on it; the Lucases are simply a family, and a loving one. With respect for D.C.’s past on one side, and a vibrant, youthful new protagonist looking squarely into the future, this is the start of a remarkable series. Longtime Pelecanos diehards will be more than satisfied, and new readers will find themselves jonesing for more. Agent: Sloan Harris, ICM. (Oct.) Patrick Millikin is the editor of the Akashic anthology Phoenix Noir.
Marilyn Stasio - New York Times
"It's astonishing all the good stuff Pelecanos can pack into one unpretentious book: meaty substance, multiple story lines, vital characters, choice dialogue and all those descriptive details ... that make the story so rich."
Dan DeLuca - Philadelphia Inquirer
"Pelecanos at his best...The Cut crackles with energy."
Tom Nolan - Wall Street Journal
"A lean, swift, atmospheric detective novel...The characters-good-hearted, ill-intentioned or in between-are shown by Mr. Pelecanos with loving clarity, free of cliché, condescension or illusion. Spero Lucas is an engagingly layered character...The Cut is a resourceful and notably original work the delivers the thrills of an action movie and the poignancy of fine storytelling."
Hallie Ephron - Boston Globe

"The writing is spare; the dialogue rings with authenticity; and walking D.C.'s mean streets with Lucas is the next best thing to being there. Easily the best crime novel I've read this year."

Dennis Lehane
"Every time I read one of George Pelecanos's novels -- and The Cut might be the best yet -- I'm left a little awed...The guy's a national treasure."
Kirkus Reviews
The second in a series featuring a new investigator represents an update for the veteran mystery novelist. Pelecanos (The Cut, 2011 etc.) has long rotated protagonists rather than settling on a signature hero. His latest is Spero Lucas, who differs from his predecessors in terms of generation, experience and bloodline. And perhaps code of morality as well. A young veteran from the Iraq War, he has become a defense attorney's special investigator at least partly for "a replication of what he'd experienced there every day: a sense of purpose and heightened sensation." He's also a digital native who knows that "the secret most investigators keep is that the bulk of their modern day work is done via computer programs." He comes by his Greek name via adoption, as part of a loving, mixed-race (but dysfunctional) family, and he tends to associate the music that Pelecanos and his previous protagonists favor with his late father. What remains constant throughout the work of the novelist is the deep knowledge of local Washington, D.C. (where this and most of his novels are set), popular culture (from music to sports to literature and beyond) and the human heart. Here, the murder Lucas begins to investigate soon seems like an afterthought, and the romance with which he becomes obsessed seems more like fantasy (though revelatory of his character) than reality. The title (fittingly enough) has a double meaning, referring both to a stolen painting Lucas tries to recover and the adversary he finds himself facing (one of them insists that the two of them are very much alike). He seems to scoff at the very notion of "literary fiction, whatever that was," while praising "a good story told with clean, efficient writing, a plot involving a problem to be solved or surmounted, and everyday characters the reader could relate to." A few more loose ends than usual, but this is a novel Spero Lucas would appreciate. Cult favorite Pelecanos deserves an even wider readership.
Library Journal
An Iraq War veteran, Spero Lucas takes work from a D.C. defense attorney who needs help securing reasonable doubt for his client; at the same time Spero freelances by retrieving stolen property, in this case an expensive painting, for a standard 40 percent recovery fee. As he hunts for the thieves, Spero also finds time for a torrid affair with a married woman. But longtime readers know the details of a Pelecanos thriller are never the primary focus; it's the music his characters listen to, the clothes they wear, and where they stack up on the manhood spectrum that matter more, beginning with his main character: Pelacanos's title is the name of the missing painting, but it also refers to Spero himself, a man portrayed as thoughtful and humane but who will work for criminals and has killed (in combat and out) without compunction. VERDICT In his second book (after The Cut) featuring private investigator Spero Lucas, Pelecanos juggles multiple narratives without sacrificing the austere narrative style he's perfected. Though the author doesn't break new ground thematically, this sequel brings his ambiguous hero into sharper focus, making him a character readers will want to know better.—Michael Pucci, South Orange P.L., NJ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316078399
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 10/8/2013
  • Series: Spero Lucas Series , #2
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 53,097
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

George Pelecanos
George Pelecanos is the author of several highly praised and bestselling novels, including The Cut, What It Was, The Way Home, The Turnaround, and The Night Gardener. He is also an independent-film producer, an essayist, and the recipient of numerous international writing awards. He was a producer and Emmy-nominated writer for The Wire and currently writes for the acclaimed HBO series Treme. He lives in Maryland.


Few writers have employed the mean streets of Washington, D.C. as effectively as George Pelecanos, the award-winning author of two acclaimed detective series and several standalone noirs of exceptional quality.

Pelecanos debuted in 1992, with A Firing Offense, a fast-paced crime novel that introduced Nick Stefanos, a Greek-American advertising executive for an electronics chain who is reluctantly drawn into investigative work when a stock boy at his company goes missing. By book's end, Nick has lost his job and applied for his P.I. license, paving the way for further (mis)adventures. Neverthless, the series has proved anything but predictable. Some books move forward in time to reveal Nick's sad descent into alcoholism; others flash back to investigate his family's past—with Nick relegated to cameo appearances in stories that span several generations and feature a cast of interrelated characters. Beloved by readers and critics alike, the Stefanos books cast unsparing light on a city tragically mired in crime, poverty, and racism.

In his Derek Strange and Terry Quinn series, Pelecanos delves further into the racial and cultural divide between white and black. Beginning with 2001's Right as Rain, these novels feature a "salt and pepper" team of ex-cops turned detectives who forge an uneasy friendship as they investigate cases in the blighted heart of D.C. The very model of noir, the stories are steeped in the violence, brutality, and despair of urban life, but the dynamic between the tough but sensitive Strange and his younger, more volatile partner offers a hopeful and humanizing counterbalance.

A distinguishing characteristic of Pelecanos's writing is an inclusion of musical references to create atmosphere, anchor period settings, and develop his characters' personalities. (His 2004 novel Hard Revolution, a prequel to the Strange/Quinn books, was packaged in limited quantity with a CD of '70s soul music.) Pelecanos has also published mysteries and thrillers, short fiction, reviews and essays, and screenplays for film and television—most notably HBO's superb urban procedural The Wire.

Good To Know

In our interview, Pelecanos shared some interesting anecdotes about past gigs:

"I began to work at my father's lunch counter in downtown D. C. when I was 11 years old, the summer after the riots of April 1968. It was the single most influential experience of my life. Everything I've written about since has seeds in that summer."

"Another good job I had was selling women's shoes, for obvious reasons. Writing for a living isn't bad, either. It beats digging ditches or washing dishes. I know, because I've done those things, too."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2013

    Loved it.

    Pelecanos has a gritty realistic edge in all of his books and charactors. Unfortunately he can't write them fast enough to satisfy me. I'm just being selfish but I wish he would give up writing HBO screenplays (also excellant!) and go back to writing novels full time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2013

     Pelecanos delivers another excellent contribution to crime genr

     Pelecanos delivers another excellent contribution to crime genre.   It could be argued that  "The Double," the second novel to feature protagonist Spiro Lucas, is at it' heart a "war novel.  Lucas journey and the things plague him is a commentary and rendering of the things that so many vets of the "Bush wars" face.
      Told in his signature clean writing style, and avoiding the trappings of stock characters, Pelecanos invites us to consider the things we fought for and the things we lost in the last decade of war.  He also gives us a heck of a crime drama with action and excitement to spare.   Many think crime novels can't provide the same substance as  "literary" novels.  Pelcanos keeps proving them wrong with every book.

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  • Posted October 21, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    In light of the disjointed activities in recent weeks in the nat

    In light of the disjointed activities in recent weeks in the nation’s Capital, the situations described in this novel, featuring Spero Lucas, who initially appeared in “The Cut,” to which this book is a follow-up, should not come as a surprise. Lucas, an ex-Marine, is an investigator for a defense attorney, and takes jobs on the side in which he finds things for people.

    “The Double” of the title is a painting, stolen from a woman friend of a bartender who asks Lucas to retrieve it. What seems to be a simple enough task turns into all sorts of violence. At the same time, Spero is asked by his English teacher brother to follow up on the murder of one of his students. And just to keep busy, he embarks on a torrid love affair with a married lady.

    Mr. Pelecanos capably blends in Spero’s concerns for his war veteran friends and the flavor of Washington, D.C., past and present. Not the shenanigans in the Capitol, but on the streets and in the suburbs of Virginia and Maryland. Luca is a complicated character, appealing, with loose morals, but rigid ethics. The plot is action-packed and is much more than just a crime story or thriller.

    Highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2013


    Full disclosure: I'm a confirmed fan of Pelecanos & started reading his books before he had a national reputation. I'll keep reading because I admire his work ethic & commitment to young writers in the community. That said, I found this, his latest effort, even more gratuitously violent than usual. If I didn't know better, I would swear he was objectifying & demeaning his female characters in a deliberate attempt to limit women's interest in his work. The ick factor in "The Double" is high. -- catwak

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2014

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    Posted March 20, 2014

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