Crime fiction writer George Pelecanos introduces Spero Lucas, an anti-hero making his place in the world one battle at a time. Includes a bonus work of short fiction focusing on Spero's early life.
Spero Lucas has a new line of work. Since he returned home to Washington, D.C. after serving in Iraq, he has been doing special investigations for a defense attorney. He's good at it, and he has carved out a niche: recovering stolen property, no questions asked. His cut is forty percent.
A high-profile crime boss who has heard of Lucas's specialty hires him to find out who has been stealing from his operation. It's the biggest job Spero has ever been offered, and he quickly gets a sense of what's going on. But before he can close in on what's been taken, he tangles with a world of men whose amorality and violence leave him reeling. Is any cut worth your family, your lover, your life?
The first in a series of thrillers featuring Spero Lucas, The Cut is the latest confirmation of why George Pelecanos is "perhaps America's greatest living crime writer." (Stephen King)
About the Author
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.
Hometown:Silver Spring, Maryland
Date of Birth:February 18, 1957
Place of Birth:Washington, D.C.
Education:B.A., University of Maryland at College Park, 1980
Read an Excerpt
By Pelecanos, George
Reagan Arthur BooksCopyright © 2011 Pelecanos, George
All right reserved.
THEY WERE in a second-story office with a bank of windows overlooking D Street at 5th, in a corner row house close to the federal courts. Tom Petersen, big and blond, sat behind his desk, wearing an untucked paisley shirt, jeans, and boots. Spero Lucas, in Carhartt, was in a hard chair set before the desk. Petersen was a criminal defense attorney, private practice. Lucas, one of his investigators.
A black Moleskine notebook the size of a pocket Bible was open in Lucas’s hand. He was scribbling something in the book.
“It’s all in the documents I’m going to give you,” said Petersen with growing impatience. “You don’t need to take notes.”
“I’d rather,” said Lucas.
“I can’t tell if you’re listening.”
“I’m listening. Where’d they boost the Denali?”
“They took it up in Manor Park, on Peabody Street. Near the community garden, across from the radio towers.”
“Behind the police station?”
“Right in back of Four-D.”
“Pretty bold,” said Lucas. “How many boys?”
“Two. Unfortunately, my client, David Hawkins, was the one behind the wheel.”
“You just have him?”
“The other one, Duron Gaskins, he’s been assigned a PD.”
“Duron,” said Lucas.
Petersen shrugged. “Like the paint.”
“How’d David get so lucky to score a stud like you?”
“I’m representing his father on another matter,” said Petersen.
“So this is like a favor.”
“A four-hundred-dollar-an-hour favor.”
Lucas’s back had begun to stiffen. He shifted his weight in his chair. “Give me some details.”
Petersen pushed a manila file across the desk. “Here.”
“Talk to me.”
“What do you want to know?”
“How’d they do it, for starters?”
“Steal the vehicle? That was easy. The boys were walking down the street, supposed to be in school, but hey. It’s early in the morning, cold as hell. You remember that snap we had back in February? This woman comes out of her apartment, starts her SUV up, and then leaves it running and goes back into the apartment.”
“She forget somethin?”
“She was heating up the Denali before she went to work.”
“Insurance companies don’t like that.”
“She left the driver’s door unlocked, too. So naturally, being teenage boys, they got in and took the SUV for a spin.”
“I would have,” said Lucas.
“You did, I recall.”
“What happened next?”
“From Peabody, David went south on Ninth to Missouri, then drove east. He caught North Capitol along Rock Creek Cemetery and took that cutoff street west, the stretch that goes by the Soldiers’ Home.”
“That would be Allison,” said Lucas, starting to see it, like he was looking down at a detail map. He had a cop’s knowledge of D.C. because he was out in it, street level, most of his waking hours. When he didn’t have to drive his Cherokee, Lucas rode his bicycle around town. At night he often walked.
“Here’s where they got in trouble. David, keep in mind he’s fifteen, no significant driving experience far as I know, he loses control of the SUV. Sideswipes a lady in a Buick, which knocks her out of her lane and into a couple of parked cars.”
“By now they’d be on Rock Creek Church Road.”
“Yeah, there,” said Petersen. “The woman in the Buick? Claims she’s got neck injuries.”
“That’s not good.”
“I’m gonna work something out with her attorney.”
“This kid’s father must be flush.”
“This where the police come in?”
“Happens to be a patrol car, coupla uniforms idling nose out at Second and Varnum see this collision.”
“And the chase is on.”
“Took the police officer a half minute to put his coffee down and flip on the siren and light bar. By that time, David knew he’d been burned, and he jumps the sidewalk and cuts right onto Upshur Street.”
“Driving on the Sidewalk, that’s a good one.”
“Fleeing and Eluding, Leaving the Scene of an Accident, Auto Theft…”
“Kid’s got a rack of problems.”
“He fishtails when he hits Upshur. Comes out of that and pins it. You know Upshur going west there—”
“It’s long and straight. Downhill.”
Petersen leaned forward, getting into it. “This boy is screaming down Upshur, Spero. Blowing four-ways, Wale or whatever coming loud out the windows.”
“Nah,” said Lucas, chuckling.
“Now you’re making shit up. You don’t know what they were listening to.”
“True. They’re coming down Upshur, the patrol car, pretty far back but gaining ground, in pursuit. Eventually our boys hit that commercial strip getting down toward Georgia Avenue, at Ninth.”
“I know the spot,” said Lucas. He was drawing a rough map, very quickly, in his notebook.
“And there’s another cop car,” said Petersen, “parked right there on the street. The driver is waiting on his partner, who’s getting a pack of smokes in a little market they got in that strip.”
“What market?” said Lucas.
“I don’t know the name of it. Spanish joint, eight hundred block, north side of Upshur. Beer and wine, pork rinds, like that. It’s in the file, along with the address. What happens next is, David sees this police car, and I guess he panics, and here’s where he makes the last mistake. He cuts a sharp right into an alley, right before Ninth.”
“A car is parked in the alley, blocking their way. The boys get out of the vehicle and run; David Hawkins is apprehended on the street. The other boy, Duron, is caught a little while later, attempting to hide in the bathroom of an El Salvadoran restaurant around the corner.”
“Who arrested David?”
“The officer waiting in the patrol car. A Clarence Jackson. By then the car in pursuit had arrived on the scene.”
“How’d Officer Jackson know that David was one of the boys in the car?”
“In his report, Jackson stated that he observed two boys exit an SUV that they had driven into the alley. Jackson got to David first. The arriving officers arrested Duron in the restaurant.”
“Where was Officer Jackson parked when he saw this?”
“It’s in the file.”
Lucas sat still for a long minute, looking at nothing. He closed his notebook and got up out of his seat. He stood five-foot-eleven, went one eighty-five, had a flat stomach and a good chest and shoulders. His hair was black and he wore it short. His eyes were green, flecked with gold, and frequently unreadable. He was twenty-nine years old.
Petersen watched Lucas stretch. “Sorry. That seat’s unforgiving.”
“It’s these wood floors. The chair sits funny on ’em cause the planks are warped.”
“This house goes back to the nineteenth century.”
“Your point is what?”
“Ghosts of greatness walk these rooms. I start messing with the floors, I might make them angry.”
A young GW law student entered Petersen’s office and dropped a large block of papers on his desk. She was dark haired, fully curved, and effortlessly attractive. Tom Petersen’s interns looked more or less like younger versions of his knockout wife.
“The Parker briefs,” said the woman, whose name was Constance Kelly.
“Thank you,” said Petersen. He watched Lucas admire her as she walked away.
Petersen stood and went to the eastern window of his office. Below, on the street, lawyers pulled wheeled briefcases toward the courthouse, uniformed and plainclothes police bullshitted with one another, mothers spoke patiently and angrily with their sons, civil servants took cigarette breaks, and folks of all shapes and colors went in and out of the Potbelly shop on the first floor.
“Life’s rich pageant,” said Petersen.
“That’s a rock record from back in your day, right?”
“Inspector Clouseau, originally.”
“You got me on that one.”
“I have twenty years on you. At times the perspective is obvious. Other times, no.” Petersen looked him over with the respect that men who have not served give to those who have. “You’ve seen a lot, haven’t you?”
“It’s been interesting, so far.” Lucas slipped his notebook into his jacket and picked up the David Hawkins file off Petersen’s desk.
“Bring me something back I can use,” said Petersen.
Lucas nodded. “I’ll get out there.”
THE NEXT morning he stopped by the Glenwood Cemetery in Northeast to see his baba. Glenwood was an old but well-kept graveyard, acres of rolling, high-ground land holding plots with headstones memorializing lives going back to the 1800s. His father was buried here, beside his own parents, on the west side of the facility, which bordered dead-end residential streets stemming off North Capitol in a neighborhood called Stronghold. Past this last section of graves the land dropped off and there went Bryant Street, its short block of row homes in a neat descending line. Lucas looked down at his father’s marker and placed a dozen roses on his plot. He said a silent prayer of thanks for the granting of life, did his stavro, and got back in his four-wheel.
He drove a 2001 Jeep Cherokee, the old boxy model with the legendary in-line 6. The model had been discontinued years ago, but because it was sturdy and reliable there were many of them still on the streets. In that respect it was the aughts version of the old Dodge Dart. With his black Jeep, empty of bumper stickers or decals, and his utilitarian clothing, Lucas was unmemorable by design, a tradesman, maybe, or a meter reader, just another workingman quietly going about his business in the city.
Lucas went up to Peabody and began to drive the route of David Hawkins and his friend Duron. Missouri, North Capitol, Allison, and then Rock Creek Church, where it had begun to go wrong. He recalled the adrenaline rush he had experienced the day he and a couple of buddies from the wrestling team had stolen a car, back in high school. It didn’t matter who suggested it; they had all participated with enthusiasm, and all had been caught, arrested, and charged. They pled down, and, because they were white and came from stable families, they had pulled community service and loose supervision. There were no further problems; Lucas’s mistake was a one-shot deal, and he did not want to shame his parents in that way ever again. By the time he entered the Marine Corps, his conviction had been expunged.
He understood why David and Duron had stolen the SUV. Teenage boys did stupid things; their brains were wired for impulse and fun. Wasn’t but a little more than ten years back that he had been one of those reckless boys, too, before September 11 and his tour of Iraq. A sobering decade, a decade that stole his youth.
Lucas drove west on Upshur. He gunned the Jeep going down the hill and pulled over when he reached the commercial strip, near Georgia Avenue. He saw the alley, cut along a salmon-colored building, currently unoccupied, where the boys had been trapped. He looked at the south and north sides of the strip and he studied the businesses and the layout of the street. In his notebook he drew a map showing the locations of the establishments. On the south side: a funeral parlor, a dry cleaner’s, a carryout featuring Chinese/steak-and-cheese, a nail salon, and a hair salon; on the north side: a storefront church, a market selling wine and beer, a furnishings store that seemed too upscale for the neighborhood, a hair salon, a Caribbean café, the alley, the salmon-colored building, another Chinese/American hybrid, a seafood carryout, a beverage shop, and on the corner a shuttered barbershop. Many of the stores had English and Spanish signage in their windows; there were blacks, Hispanics, and a few whites out on the street.
He got out of the car and, using his iPhone, took photographs of these businesses and their spots on the block. No one questioned him or got in his way. He went around the corner and noted the commercial layout of Ninth: the Petworth station of the U.S. Post Office, a private-detective agency, another funeral home, the Salvadoran restaurant where Duron had tried to hide, an embroidery shop, and a corner Spanish grocery store that did not have any English signage and was padlocked shut. Above the detective agency door was a lightbox that read “Strange Investigations,” with several letters enlarged by the magnifying-glass logo placed over them. He had heard tell of the man, Derek Strange, and his latest partner, a middle-aged Greek whose name he could not recall.
Lucas retraced his steps, crossed Upshur and stood by the Chinese eat-house, where in his report Officer Clarence Jackson stated that he had been parked, and saw that indeed it afforded a direct view of the alley. He took a photograph from that perspective. He looked across the street to the market where Jackson’s partner had bought his smokes, and he saw that there was a fire hydrant in front of it. That would explain why Jackson had parked across the street. It would have explained it perfectly, except for the fact that Jackson was police.
Lucas crossed Upshur once again and entered the beer and wine market. It was clean, well stocked with alcohol and food packaged in bags, its walls lined with steel shelving and reach-in coolers. Behind the register counter was a man in his forties, round brown face, white shirt open at the neck revealing a gold crucifix in a thicket of black chest hair. By his bearing and the gold-and-diamond ring on his finger, Lucas surmised that he was the owner. When questioned, the man confirmed this. Lucas gave him his name and identified himself simply as an “investigator.” He asked if the owner, who called himself Odin, recalled the day of the arrest, and Odin said that he did. He asked Odin where the officer had been parked when his partner had entered the market to buy his smokes, and Odin said, “He park out front.” When Lucas noted that there was a fire hydrant out front, Odin, who like many hardworking Hispanics was a law-and-order man, said rather defensively, “But he is police; he park where he want!”
Lucas got the man’s contact information, thanked him, and made a note in his book regarding the pronunciation of Odin’s name. He left the store and took multiple photographs of the alley from the point of view of the empty parking spot. He framed these so that the fire hydrant was in the foreground of the shots.
THE NEXT day, Lucas was sitting on the edge of Constance the intern’s desk, trying to talk her into something, when Petersen called out to him from his office.
“We should continue this conversation later on,” said Lucas.
“You think so?” said Constance, a strand of dark hair over one eye, light freckles across the bridge of her nose. She reminded Lucas of one of those J. Crew girls. There was no trace of a smile on her face, but there was a light in her eyes, and Lucas knew that if he wanted to be in, he was in.
Petersen was behind his desk, loud striped shirt untucked, his blond hair shaggy around his face, looking like an aged Brian Jones. He was checking out photos on his computer screen, displayed from a disk that Lucas had burned from his iPhone.
“These are interesting,” said Petersen, Lucas now standing beside him.
“The ones with the hydrant in the foreground? That would approximate the sight line of Officer Jackson. From where he was actually parked, as opposed to where he said he was parked.”
“He couldn’t have seen deep into the alley from there.”
“He could only have seen the head of it, and a small piece of it at that. The report says the Denali was found at the back edge of that salmon-colored building. So, from that perspective, there’s no way Jackson could have observed David and Duron get out of that SUV.”
“Can anyone testify that Jackson was parked in front of the market?”
From his back pocket Lucas produced his notebook and opened it. “The owner. His name is Odin Nolasco.” Lucas spelled it and Petersen wrote it down. Lucas said, “It’s pronounced Oh-deen. I don’t think he’d willingly discredit a police officer’s official report. You’re going to have to subpoena him. When you get him on the stand you might have to treat him as hostile.”
“Thank you for the legal advice, counselor.”
“The visual ID, the link of the boys to the SUV, that’s the prosecution’s case right there.”
“Weren’t the boys’ prints on the Denali?”
“Their prints were all over it. But that’s less significant than what we have here. I was weighing a plea, but now I want this to go to trial. You put it into a D.C. jury’s head that a police officer gave false testimony to make a case against a juvenile, nine times out of ten that jury’s going to acquit, even in the face of damning evidence.”
“Well, there’s your ammunition.” Lucas held up the notebook. “I’ve got street maps I drew, right in here, if you need them.”
“The Book of Luke.”
“Good work, man.”
Lucas began to walk from the office, and Petersen stopped him. “Spero?”
“Don’t bother Constance. She’s a nice girl.”
“I like nice girls,” said Lucas. He meant it, too.
IT WENT the way Petersen said it would. A month later, he phoned Lucas and got him on his cell.
“David Hawkins was acquitted,” said Petersen.
“Duron?” said Lucas.
“Duron will walk, too.”
“Do I get a bonus, somethin?”
“In a way. But not from me.”
“That would be out of character.”
“David’s father, Anwan Hawkins, would like to meet you. I think he has something like an extra envelope in mind.”
“Anwan Hawkins the dealer?”
“Yeah. Up on trafficking charges at the moment, unfortunately. He’s currently in the D.C. Jail.”
“He wants me to come there?”
“Visitation days are set by the first letter in the last names, right?”
“That’s for social visits; the prison makes audio recordings of those conversations. You should go in as one of my official investigators. Those conversations are confidential.”
“I’ll put a letter in to the DOC. It takes twenty-four hours to clear.”
“You know what Hawkins wants?”
“I believe Anwan is going to make you some sort of a proposal. But I can’t have you taking on any side work for a week or so. You’ve got those interviews to do for me on that Southeast thing. I’m defending Reginald Brooks, the shooter. Remember?”
“So what should I tell Anwan?” Petersen got no comment from Lucas. “Spero?”
“I’ll meet with him,” said Lucas. “See what he has to say.”
Which is how Spero Lucas met Anwan Hawkins, and the truck began to roll downhill.
LUCAS HIT “end” on his iPhone and placed the device on the nightstand beside his bed. The stand held a digital alarm clock, a lamp with a pillowcase thrown over its shade, his Bible, and a couple of other books. Lucas kept two, a fiction and a nonfiction, going at a time. He rolled over and got up on one elbow. Constance Kelly was beside him, naked in the bed.
“That was your boss,” said Lucas.
“I don’t have a boss.”
“Neither do I, technically. I’m an intern, remember? At least you get paid.”
“Fifteen an hour.”
“It’s folding money.”
“Don’t forget about the meal plan. Horace and Dickies, Litteri’s…”
“Tom does like to feed his troops.”
Lucas leaned into her. They kissed.
“Why’d he call you on a Monday night?” said Constance.
“He had something for me.”
Lucas shook his head. He ran his hand down her neckline, her breast, her ribcage. The inside of her thigh and between her legs.
“I’m not on the stand,” said Lucas.
“You do side work,” said Constance. “Isn’t that right?” In the low light of his bedroom lamp she looked very young.
“Something like that.”
“That’s how you have all this.” She meant his spacious apartment. His bicycle, his car, the kayak hung on hooks on the back porch. In terms of Washington, it really wasn’t much at all. But from her perspective, living on a tight budget, it looked like a lot.
“All this,” said Lucas, finding a spot she liked.
She gasped a little and arched her back. She sucked at his lip and he pulled away, looking down at her, admiring her.
“I guess you think you’re pretty smart,” said Lucas.
Her chest blushed pink and he laughed.
“Stop it,” she said.
“What’s the rush?”
“I mean it,” she said, her eyes slightly gone.
She tugged at him and he fitted himself between her, lifting one of her legs. It was slow at first. They searched for it and then they found it and soon it became something else, and the bed moved across the floor. Constance’s hand twisted the sheets, her pupils dilated, her hair fanned out about her face. She was the quiet type, but he felt her tense beneath him, and when she made it, Lucas let go and shot a hot river.
They lay there quietly, the sex smell heavy in the room. She liked him to linger. When she was ready she pushed at him a little and she made a small sound when he pulled out. She rolled off the mattress and stood. He watched her cross the room slowly, deliberately, so he could take her in. She was proud of her body and rightly so. He listened to her in the bathroom, washing herself, and then the sound of water drumming in the sink. Thinking, This is what I dreamed of when I was overseas: a nice big comfortable bed in a place of my own, money in my pocket, good-looking young women to laugh with, sometimes just to fuck, sometimes to make love to. God, what more do you need?
Fifteen minutes later, she was dressed and by the front door. He was beside her, shirtless and shoeless, in his 501s.
“You could stay,” said Lucas.
“I want to wake up in my own place. I have class in the morning and then I’m doing some work for Tom.”
“I feel used.”
“No, you don’t. You’re happy and grateful.” She touched his chest, lifted his crucifix, and handled the pendant of blue glass and silver that hung beside it on his chain. “What is this?”
“A mati. It means ‘eye.’ ”
“Like an evil eye?”
“The opposite. It reflects evil back on the onlooker.”
“I’m evil.” She moved her hand to one of his nipples and pinched it.
Lucas smiled. “Don’t I know it.”
“I hope we didn’t wake up the woman downstairs,” said Constance.
“She lived here with her husband for over fifty years. I reckon they christened every room in this house, one time or another. Miss Lee understands that I’m a healthy young man.”
He walked her down the stairs that led to the separate entrance to his place. He had the entire second floor of a four-square colonial on the corner of Emerson and Piney Branch Road, in 16th Street Heights. This wasn’t the Piney Branch that ran deep into Maryland, a street commuters knew well, but rather a short stretch of road running from Buchanan up to Colorado Avenue, in a country-style atmosphere of quiet lanes and alleys that felt bucolic and was only fifteen minutes north of the White House and deep downtown. A brief bike ride down Colorado to Blagden could take Lucas into Rock Creek Park. Nearby 13th Street was within pedaling distance of the places he needed to go. He had lucked into the spot when Miss Lee, a septuagenarian with a prunish face, a thin cap of cottony hair, and beautiful and wily black eyes, had advertised the apartment the old-fashioned way, with a handbill stapled to a telephone pole. He spotted it one day while cruising through the neighborhood on his Trek. When she interviewed him, she explained that the house was paid for, that she didn’t need a tenant for the rent money and was only looking to feel secure with someone in the house. He mentioned that he was a veteran and a marine, and that, coupled with the fact that he repeatedly addressed her as Miss Lee and not by her Christian name, Willie Mae, closed the deal. Given the size of the place, the low rent, and the location, he knew he’d scored.
“Come back,” said Lucas to Constance, outside the first-floor door to his apartment.
He kissed her and watched her go to her car, a ’99 Civic that might as well have had “student” imprinted on its plates. When she was safely in and her engine had turned over, he went back inside. He had things to do in the next couple of days before he went to visit Anwan Hawkins. For one, he needed to get to the library, check out the newspaper morgue material on the man, and gather any intel on him from Petersen. He also had plans to meet his brother for dinner, down around U. Visit some of the soldiers up at Walter Reed, drop off some books. And he needed to get by his mother’s house in Silver Spring to cut her grass. Matter of fact, he thought as he went up the stairs, I should call Mom soon as I get in my room.
Tell her I love her, tell her good night.
ON DETAIL maps it was identified as the D.C. Central Detention Facility, but locals—citizens, inmates, and law alike—called it the D.C. Jail. The holding facility sat at 19th and D, in the Southeast quadrant of the city, on acreage that included the old D.C. General Hospital and RFK Stadium. The jail complex was large, ugly, and bleak. Inmates liked to say that they lived on waterfront property, as several of the east-facing cells gave to a view of the Anacostia River.
In the security area, Lucas signed the book, gave up his driver’s license in exchange for a pass, went through a metal detector, and was patted down and wanded. He was the only male visitor who wasn’t obviously an attorney or some kind of police. Mothers, grandmothers, aunts, girlfriends, and one nun waited in line. The younger women were led into a closed room where they were instructed to shake out their bras. One woman, wearing shorts and a scoop-necked shirt showing ample cleavage, a double violation of the dress code, was turned away. She exited loudly.
Now Lucas sat on a plastic chair in the visiting room, among women visiting men and several guards. Across from him, behind glass, sat Anwan Hawkins, wearing orange. Hawkins was very tall, lean, and freakishly broad shouldered. He was in his thirties. His long braids framed a chiseled face. One of his front teeth had been capped in gold. His facial hair was haphazardly arranged and ungroomed. It stayed where it grew.
They were speaking into telephones. Though they were spitting distance from each other, the telephone connection made them sound continents apart.
“Thank you for helping my son,” said Hawkins, his voice low and husky.
“I did my job.”
“Mr. Petersen said you do it well.”
“He must like my work. He keeps me around.”
Hawkins appraised him. “You look like you can handle yourself out there.”
“I just try to show people respect.”
“I feel the same way.” Hawkins dipped his head. “My man said you fought in the Middle East.”
“I was there.”
“You kill anyone?”
Lucas did not reply.
“Okay, then,” said Hawkins. “I understand.”
“My son David is no gangster,” said Hawkins. “Nothin like that. What he did, taking that vehicle, that was just a crime of opportunity right there.”
“It seemed that way to me.”
“Incarceration wouldn’t have taught David nothin he didn’t already know. He was raised right.”
“His mother did all the heavy lifting. I’m not proud of that. I never intended to have a baby and not be there in his life. I wanted my marriage to last. But sometimes a man and a woman just can’t make it.” Hawkins chucked his chin up in Lucas’s direction. “You married?”
“His mother and I don’t stay together, but I always gave her support. I feel like, now, it’s extra important that I get out of here, so I can be there for him, to set the right example.”
“I can’t help you there, Mr. Hawkins.”
“I got the best criminal lawyer in town. I don’t need more legal help.”
“You wanna get to it.”
“We only have a half hour. We’ve burnt a piece of it already.”
“How you say your name, exactly?”
“Spee-row. We gonna speak freely, right?”
“Mr. Petersen told you about my charges.”
“He didn’t have to. You were involved with one of the largest marijuana seizures in D.C. history. I read about it in the paper.”
“Damn right you gonna read about it. Over a million dollars, wholesale. You know they gonna try and put me away for a long time. Actin like I’m Rayful Edmond and shit. But I never sold cocaine or heroin. I wouldn’t.”
“In the eyes of the law it’s all illegal.”
“And it’s gonna stay illegal. ’Cause that’s how they fill up the facilities and generate the construction of more jails. Hire more guards. More administrators, guard unions. The aim is to keep this big prison industrial complex rolling. When I was a kid, the majority of people in lockup was in for violent crime. Now most of the people in prison are in for nonviolent drug offenses.”
“There’s violence attached to it.”
“Don’t I know. That stash you got up in your bedroom drawer, somewhere down in Juarez they be cutting someone’s head off behind it. If it was legal, that shit wouldn’t be happenin.” Hawkins leaned forward. “It’s a prop, man. Don’t matter what the thing is, exactly. You make, I don’t know, possession of milk against the law, you gonna give birth to an underground economy where people be sellin milk on the corner or behind closed doors. And some people gonna kill behind that carton of milk. But not me. I’m not about that.”
Lucas looked into his eyes. “Say why I’m here.”
“I lost something,” said Hawkins. “I understand you specialize in recovery.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Do you know how I used to bring in my product?”
“Mexicans out of California drove it into D.C. in tractor trailers. They’d stop on the side of the road and transfer it into your own trucks. Sometimes they’d even stop on the Beltway or the B-W Parkway.”
“You did your homework.”
“Again, I read about it. That’s a story you don’t forget.”
“Sounds bold or stupid, depending on how you look at it. But actually it worked out fine for a long time. Thing is, we didn’t get busted out on the highway. Someone weak got put under the hot lights and snitched me out. Doesn’t matter who. In my line of work you know that day is gonna come. Once I became a person of interest, it was just a matter of time. The police didn’t want my shipment, they wanted me. The law GPS’d one of my trucks, let it make its run, and followed it back to my storage facility. I had this spot off Kansas Avenue, up there by Lamond, where they got a whole rack of warehouses.”
“I know the area.”
“I was there the day the truck rolled in. And now I’m here.”
Hawkins folded his hands on the table, paused for effect. He was a showman.
“Even though I got locked up, I couldn’t close my business. I mean, I got employees to take care of, not to mention my legal fees. My second, a young man name of Tavon, continues to bring in product, only now he’s doing it in a different way. You know about the FedEx method, right?”
“Yeah,” said Lucas. “And so do the police.”
“Even with that, it’s hard to stop it. The supplier FedExes a bunch of packages to residences that we identify as unoccupied during the day. We track the packages on the Internet so we know damn near when they’re about to arrive. We intercept the pickups and no one’s the wiser.”
“Except that it’s been in the news lately, in a big way.”
“Uh-huh. First you had that incident out in Maryland where the SWAT boys shot the dogs of those suspects who turned out to be innocent. And then that article they had in the Post, where those people took in that package and discovered it was multiple pounds of weed. Made it sound like it was some kind of new phenomenon and shit.”
“Kids were shipping weed back and forth like that when I was in high school.”
“It is tried and true.”
“Not exactly,” said Lucas. “Someone took you off, right?”
Hawkins nodded with embarrassment. “I lost one. More than one, actually.”
“Three weeks ago, somethin like that. A thirty-pound package got stolen off the steps of a house in Brookland. And then a box holding another thirty pounds of my property got boosted off someone’s porch just last week.”
“Sure is.” Hawkins shook a ropy forest of braids away from his face. “Funniest part of that article was, po-lice said the dealers don’t bother with retaliation when that kind of thing goes down. Said the economics was such that the dealers could afford to be philosophical about that shit and absorb the loss. That’s some bullshit right there. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not lookin to do any kind of violence to no one. Like I told you, I’m not about that. But I can’t be philosophical behind it, either. Situation I’m in right now, I need the money. I paid for that product and it’s mine. I want it back.”
“You want me to recover your lost packages.”
“Or the cash, if they done offed it already. I’m not lookin for any muscle here, Spero. Just get me back what’s mine. No one I got has your skills. I seen what you did for my son. Got to say, I was impressed.”
“What’s the value of the product?”
“Retail,” said Lucas.
“Roughly one hundred and thirty thousand a package.”
“I’d get forty.”
“Percent,” said Lucas.
“That’s fifty thousand and change.”
“Fifty-two. Per package.”
“How you come to that?”
“Forty percent’s my standard fee.”
“Your cut,” said Hawkins.
Anwan Hawkins sat back in his chair. He stared at Lucas, and a glint of gold showed as he nearly smiled.
“Where’d the second package get took?” said Lucas.
“Why the second?”
“Most likely the trail on the first theft is cold by now.”
Hawkins gave him an address. Lucas said, “Do you know how to get in touch with me?”
“Tell me your cell number. I’ll get it to Tavon.”
“Don’t communicate with Petersen about this again.”
“Understood,” said Hawkins. “Your cell?”
Lucas said it and repeated it. “You’re gonna remember that?”
“I don’t do trades. I take my fee in cash.”
Hawkins looked him over. “You’re on the cocky side. You know that?”
“It serves me well in my line of work.”
“Don’t go spending that cash just yet,” said Hawkins. “That kinda money you chargin? I ain’t quite decided whether you and I are gonna do business.”
Lucas said, “Neither have I.”
SPERO LUCAS had two brothers and a sister, but only one sibling he was close to. This was the brother who was a year older than him. His name was Leonidas, but everyone, except for his mother when she was being stern with him, called him Leo. Leo’s birth name had been Nigel, but Van and Eleni Lucas had changed it, in the same way that they had changed Spero’s name from Sean. Spero and Leo had come into the world from entirely different places and had wound up brothers. Both felt blessed.
“What do you think?” said Spero, talking on his cell, sitting in his reading chair by the window that gave to a view of Emerson Street. “Should I take the job?”
“I wouldn’t,” said Leo, speaking from his basement apartment in Logan. “But I wouldn’t do half the shit you do.”
“Because he’s a dealer?”
“Because someone with a defective personality probably stole that weed. Because someone like that might not like you looking into it, and they might go and blow your pretty head off.”
“Hawkins doesn’t seem to play in that kind of arena.”
“Oh. He deals marijuana as opposed to the hard stuff, so he’s cool.”
“I’m not claiming that. But he is smart and practical. Not practical, exactly. He looks at his situation from the practical tip based on the facts at hand.”
“He’s pragmatic,” said Leo.
“Thanks, teacher. My impression was that he isn’t the violent type. He seems like a straight-up businessman who lost an item out of his inventory.”
“And you seem like you already made up your mind.”
“Unless you talk me out of it.”
“What for? You’ve gone ahead and rationalized it, so there it is.”
“I’m not trying to judge my clients.”
“Not even a little bit.”
“It’s work,” said Spero.
“Someone’s got to do it,” said Leo. “Et cetera.”
Spero heard a female voice, deep in the background. She was saying Leo’s name in a singsong way.
“You’ve got company?” said Spero.
“No,” said Leo softly. “That’s only a kitty cat.”
“A talking kitty cat?”
“Like in the cartoons.”
“They say it purrs if you scratch it.”
“Now you goin somewhere you shouldn’t.”
“It better be a woman, dude. ’Cause if you’re sticking an actual cat, even one that can say your name, I’m gonna be very disappointed in you. And Mom is not gonna understand.”
“I gotta go,” said Leo, and hung up the phone.
Excerpted from The Cut by Pelecanos, George Copyright © 2011 by Pelecanos, George. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
"Every time I read one of George Pelecanos’s novelsand THE CUT might be the best yetI'm left a little awed, a little envious, and wholly certain that what I've just experienced is the authentic marriage of art to truth. The guy's a national treasure."(Dennis Lehane)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Pelecanos brings a certain poetry, a certain literary touch to the crime fiction genre. The Cut is no exception. Pelecanos understands the genre like Monet understood paint. He instinctively knows which clichés of the genre will work and which to avoid. First, the ones he uses and uses oh, so well; Spero Lucas is, like many protagonists of crime fiction, a war veteran. He served as a Marine in Iraq and was an obvious man of action choosing to be the first in the door at `clearing houses' in the streets of Fallujah. Secondly, like Sam Spade or Philip Marlow, Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder or Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, Spero is a loner. He also maintains that ambiguous place between the cops and the criminals and has his own set of values based in common sense and not laws. And probably most important, Pelecanos' subject matter is very socially aware and pertinent in making some social issues a part of the back story i.e. a feeling of detachment of returning vets, how disabled vets get lost in society, the complicated racial relations of our nations capital, which in and of itself is a microcosm of the nation as a whole. After returning from Iraq, Spero wasn't drawn to college not being able to see himself wearing a suit and tie or bound to a desk and office. He drifted into investigative work employing a keen sense of observation that allowed him to survive the war. He writes and diagrams everything he sees in a moleskin note book or takes endless photos with his iPhone - the new gun for the 21st century detective. He also does `side jobs' finding lost or stolen property that the official authorities wouldn't bother to look for or retrieve for the owners. Oft time the owners won't even report these things because they in themselves may be illegal - unreported income, or a drug stash for instance. He preforms this for the arbitrarily arrived at fee of 40% of the value. Hence the title, The Cut. The clichés he avoids are, endless, senseless violence that only show how tough the tough guy hero is. Spero comes off as more a thinking mans tough guy with his minute analysis of everything. Yet, there is this quiet sense of menace underneath the skin. And almost a recklessness in his approach at times. He is also a very good reader of character. The author avoids the obvious cliché of too cute dialog. Instead, the dialog not only drives the character development but the story and plot. And, if nailing all the other story elements isn't enough, Pelecanos' gives a sense of place, Washington DC, that is superb. He takes you through alleys, and down streets, observes buildings, architecture, row houses and school yards, history and the seasons in detail and makes it endlessly interesting. It's a side of the city you don't see often in fiction. It's not a DC of movers and shakers and thousand dollar suits and limos. It's a city diverse in it's racial make up, rich in it small bars, night clubs and restaurants. It's a city of the homeless living in the shadows of our greatest monuments to a promised land. In short, he gives the city to average ever average everyday people. The politicians just work there. What Pelecanos' has done is to fashion a first class crime story that stands head and shoulders above the genre and contains all the right elements to be considered literary fiction as well as popular fiction. Then he wraps it up as the opening of a series that should keep any reader ecstatic for years to come. It's a master
Good plot but characters are too stereotypical
Many said that George Pelecanos' later stand-alone novels were not as good as his, Stefanos, D.C. Quartet, and Strange/Quinn novels (no, they were not as good, but the ones that I have read were fantastic). The Cut brings with it a new character, Spero Lucas, a vet-turned investigator for a D.C. defense attorney. And what a character he is. In the only negative review I read, the critic complained about not knowing Lucas enough. For me, I knew him pretty well, and yes, there was some left to know about him, but as Pelecanos writes more books about Lucas, which he plans to do, Lucas will be more developed. The Cut brings Pelecanos back to his roots, a straight up action book that is pure fun. However, behind the action, there is a lot of heart. Pelecanos writes some of the best action scenes, dialogue, and pop-culture references, period.
In the first novel of a new series, we are introduced to Spero Lucas, a just-returned Iraq war veteran, working as an investigator for a Washington, D.C. defense attorney with a sideline of recovering “lost” property fort a 40 per cent cut of its value. In the caper he undertakes in this initial foray, he seems to bite off more than he can chew. The attorney is defending a top marijuana peddler, and the client asks for Spero to visit him in jail. He tells Spero that his deliveries are being stolen and he is out of money, and would appreciate recovery of either the merchandise or the cash. The assignment takes Spero off into all kinds of action, some of which is kind of far-fetched. Mr. Pelecanos is well-known for his characterizations and his use of the nation’s Capital as background, and this book is no exception. Somehow, however, using Spero as an example of a footloose vet just returned from the desert just didn’t quite ring true. Some of his friends who served with him there do exhibit the plight of wounded, disabled marines, or just plain still unemployed, somewhat more realistically. That said, the novel is written with the author’s accustomed flair, and the plot moves at a rapid pace. Certainly, the action is vivid, and the reader keeps turning pages. Recommended.
I had the opportunity to listen to this book and enjoyed it very much. I enjoyed it so much that I wish I would have read it. I try to listen to books I otherwise would not read. Spero Lucas and his family make for great characters and there is great description of the surroundings and other characters. Just a great read. Looking forward to the next Spero Lucas novel. That one I will read.
I may be biased as I live in the DC area, but the book was great. It moved and left out the typical plotlines that bog down a story. Like the main character, this book is a bull.
George pelicanos is in my mind the best writer publishing books today. Similar to two of my favorite authors pat conroy and john stienbeck the story is secondary to his study of humanbeings . After im done reading his books i allwys feel that i have gained incredible insight .the heroe of this book is a young gutsy arrogant man.but the man writing the book is very close to my age and thats the incredible benifit that ihave gained .mr pelicanos has made me think closer about my own life and ihave strived to become a bettet man
Good but not great. The Cut doesn't stand out like some of Pelecanos' work, thinking of The Night Gardener in particular but it is a fast and enjoyable read. This is similar in style to his Nick Stefanos or Derek Strange novels. Lucas Spero is an interesting character and given his military background he is more convincing in physical confrontations than maybe some other fictional characters. Given that I read nearly everything by Pelecanos I'm sure I'll read more in this intended series but I'll be expecting more.
When I think of George Pelecanos, I think atmosphere. I think character driven. I know that when I pick up one of his novels, I will likely be in for a story full of angst and ethical questions. The Cut had all of these things to varying degrees.The author wrote occasionally for one of my all time favorite shows, The Wire, and so I expect a lot from him when I crack open one of his books. Given that this was also an Independent Literary Award short-listed nominee for the Mystery category . . . Well, he had a lot to live up to with The Cut.Pelecanos captured the underbelly of Washington D.C. and his characters quite well. Spero Lucas is a character who doesn't always play by the rules as we know them, but he's definitely the kind of man you'd want on your side if ever you find yourself in trouble. He is quick on his feet both physically and mentally and is ever persistent. I felt like I was right there on the streets with Spero (very glad he was by my side--he deals with some shady characters!), where survival can be a matter of a split second decision. As is common with his novels, the author raises questions about morality and how easy it could be to cross the line given the circumstances.I didn't quite like The Cut as much as I did The Night Gardener which I read by him years ago. The characters, both the good and the bad guys, in the older book were much more fleshed out. Whereas The Night Gardener was much more character driven, I found The Cut to be spurred on more by the plot.The Cut is dark and at times violent. It is well written and I can see why it made the Indie Lit Awards short list.
Spero Lucas is a former military man, who served in Iraq. He is now working as an investigator for a criminal defense attorney who gets high profile cases. He also takes on his own cases, where he recovers stolen property, charging 40% of the amount recovered as his cut.After successfully finding the evidence that helped acquit the son of a marijuana dealer, the dealer hires Lucas to recover some merchandise (or the cash proceeds) that was stolen from him. The pot was being delivered to unoccupied residences, but it was stolen from there before his men were able to pick it up. This turns into a dangerous, even deadly assignment.The book is the first in a planned series from PelecanosI found it annoying that there were frequent description of the brands of clothing being worn by Lucas and others. What difference did it make? Also, he explained the usage of a back room in the auto detailing shop more times than was necessary. And, at one point when it was particularly dangerous at Lucas's residence, he takes a woman there for sex.There were several references to specific music, movies, books, which I liked. I wrote down some names to check them out.We meet other characters who will likely be returning in the other books in the series. His brother, Leo, who teaches at a school. His mother, who is drinking a little too much wine, which bothers Lucas but his brother tells him to cool it on that issue. Some old army buddies.The morality of Lucas's actions is questionable. But, his training and experience in Iraq serve him well in this book. No one who is innocent gets hurt anyway.A high school boy from the neighborhood where one of the packages was lifted witnessed some of what happened, and he helps Lucas, but then he gets endangered for doing so. His brother knows that something is going on there, but is not told the details.Lucas's father died of cancer while he was in Iraq, and he could not come home, which is nagging on him. He visits the grave often.He has sex with two women and loses one of them because he is not faithful, which he regrets. She was a law student working for the lawyer as an intern. She probably won't be back, at least not in the same capacity.
I¿ve been a fan of Pelecanos ever since I found out he was one of the creators of The Wire (I¿m surely not the first person to tell you to watch that show), and I actually liked this book a little more than the last couple of his I¿ve read. It¿s still set in the Washington D.C. area, which he does such a great job bringing to life, but it¿s not so focused on an "issue". I don¿t mind a good issue-focused novel, but sometimes I just want a good crime story. Now don¿t get me wrong; this crime story isn¿t issue-free. Lucas is an Iraq veteran, and Pelecanos does have a lot to say about veterans and their post-war treatment. But at its heart, this is a story about drugs.Lucas is a private investigator who specializes in finding things that are lost. He¿s also not very particular about which side of the law he¿s working on. When the client of a lawyer he normally works for needs some help recovering some "property", Lucas agrees to help. Soon he finds out that the story is much bigger than he could have imagined, and not only is he in danger, but people that have helped him are too.I liked the character of Lucas. He¿s an adopted kid in a mixed-race family, and I liked seeing those dynamics as much as I enjoyed seeing him in the weeds. It¿s hard to dislike a man who loves his momma. There¿s a strong theme of family relationships throughout the book, whether it¿s Lucas and his family, the young man who helps him and his absentee mother, or the father & son crime duo.I think one of Pelecanos¿s strengths is his ability to create complex characters, and Spero Lucas is one I am anxious to read more about.
I await every George Pelecanos book with eager anticipation. This first in a new series was great. Spero Lucas is a great new character with encyclopedic knowledge of DC and its eateries. I also like the fact that he is a cyclist. Bring on the next one.
Spero Lucas is an Iraq War vet trying to find his niche in life after seeing more than enough action. But the life he has chosen feeds his adrenaline rush and his need to work solo. He works for an attorney recovering stolen items. Hawkins, the attorney¿s client, is in jail awaiting trial but still seems to be conducting business as usual from behind bars. Several packages of marijuana worth thousands are stolen from the front steps of three different houses. Lucas¿ cut is 40% if he can locate the missing packages. Two youths who work for Hawkins are murdered right after calling Lucas with a cryptic message¿just four numbers. Now Hawkins isn¿t that interested in his missing packages but Lucas was hired to do a job so the hunt is on. This book is testosterone heavy with Lucas jumping in and out of bed with a couple women and it is constantly mentioned after riding his bike or exercising that Lucas ¿needs a woman.¿ While on surveillance the reader gets to hear how Lucas uses a bottle for a bathroom break¿too much information, thank you. The friendly barbs exchanged with his brother are amusing but I found it ironic that Lucas is chasing down missing illegal pot yet fires up a joint every now and then. I am a stickler for laws so I have little patience when characters I am supposed to like break them. Yet I am a huge fan of Dexter. Maybe because Dexter kills those society is better without. Maybe because Dexter is so likeable I can forgive him. Lucas did kill some people that society is better without but for some reason I wasn¿t that fond of him. The main theme of the book seemed to be that the drug wars aren¿t working so we should just legalize them. Perhaps the author is showing reality, i.e., thirty-year-olds smoke pot. I had to ponder ¿ if Dexter used drugs, would I still be that fond of him? I think not. Drugs are a major pet peeve of mine so I¿m not the best judge to rate this book.
A good book, a fast and enjoyable read, but I don't think it lives up to the glowing reviews and breathless pre-publication publicity I've read in The New York Times, The Millions and other online sources.The author is apparently a writer for television, and I think that explains the book's strengths and its weaknesses. On the plus side, is the author's easy writing style, knack for fast-paced action and excellent dialogue, as well as the book's strong sense of place and the interesting back story created for the hero, Spero Lucas.Admittedly, most of the characters are very thinly sketched and the plot is predictable, but I don't find that fatal for this genre. Less pleasing, to me, is the author's extreme specificity of description. Some might consider that to add to the book's realism, which is certainly a fair rebuttal. But to me it was simply wearing. Pelecanos describes Spero's feelings and even experiences with the lightest of outlines. But he details Spero's every outfit -- brand, color, even fit -- as well as every gun or other possession. Not to mention every Subway lunch or restaurant dinner. Spero's car is a 201 black Jeep Cherokee. His bike is an "aluminum frame gray Trek." And when Spero bikes or drives, which he does a lot, every street, sometimes every business passed, is name-checked. His workout routines are lovingly described, with every crunch counted, every bicycled mile noted, even his kayak-paddling technique outlined. Such extremes of detail does probably help many readers identify with, or even admire, Spero. And I'm sure that kind of detail is important direction to the behind-the-scenes people when putting together a television episode. But as a reader, it felt sometimes like I was reading a commercial. The emphasis on brands -- and just things -- made the author, or the character, seem like an embodiment of David Brooks's bourgeois bohemian, via the pages of the magazine Details. Which probably wasn't what he was going for.In a lot of ways, the book reminded me of those old Travis McGee books I read as a kid. Not really hard-bitten, but more like escapism; very well-done as a genre thing, and a good vacation read. I think the rapturous reviews made me expect more than that. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to someone looking for that kind of book, especially to men or teenage boys.
Along with Richard Price and James Lee Burke, George Pelecanos is setting the bar for American crime fiction. Like the fore mentioned he also uses the setting as much as a character as any of the people. In this case its the city of Washington D.C.. Spero Lucas is a gulf war vet that finds things for people. In this case its a package of marijuana thats been stolen from an incarcerated drug kingpin. as to be expected, things are not exactly as they seem and things get a little complicated. In Spero, Pelecanos has created a character that he can base a series on. If they're all this good, you can count on my reading them.
I had read several of Pelecanos' books so I was pleased to get a LibraryThing Early Reviewer's copy of his newest one, "The Cut". His books tend to be hard-boiled private detective stories set in gritty locations around Washington DC. This one follows that pattern.It is a very good book and very entertaining to read. The protagonist, Spero Lucas, is a fit young Marine veteran who has returned to his hometown of Washington DC. He works as an "investigator" for a prominent criminal attorney, and takes on freelance jobs "finding" things for people for a cut of the value. In this case, he is hired to recover some stolen cocaine which was delivered via Fedex to an unoccupied house. It was stolen before the drug gang could pick it up. The head of the gang wants the drugs or proceeds from their sale. The story is about Spero's search for the goods.The story is well-plotted and moves along briskly. Before long there's some killing, which really engages Spero into getting to the bottom of the mystery of who took the drugs. There's more killing and a kidnapping before things get resolved.Pelecanos shows an intimate knowledge of the geography of Washington and the surrounding countryside. There's some information overload as he goes into detail about the location of all the events.This is the first book in a potential Spero Lucas series and I look forward to the sequel to "The Cut". I've read that there's one in the works already.
I liked The Cut; I didnt love it. I have read many other titles by Pelecanos that I DID love, but this one was a litte more superficial and felt more like a TV or movie script than a novel. Lucas is an interesting character, and the author develops his motivations, but I just wanted to know more. The action is primary, which is typical of this genre, and all of the loose ends are tied up-but I just don't think this is his best work. I will read the sequel though.
This is the first Pelecanos book I have read. I finished it in three days-a fast read for me.Obviously a writer about D.C., Pelecanos drips with authenticity with streets, neighborhoods and restaurants. I wish i lived there to check him out, but my guess is he's right on target. His euphemisms are delightful. a deuce is a table for two. I easily picked up on his many uses of his personal slang and the reality was great. The story moved swiftly and was quite believable. I must say I look forward to the next Spero Lucas novel and it is a crime novel rather than a thriller. That is , it moves along fast but not because it's a cliff hanger, because the story moves you along. Great book, but not a fantastic book.
Like most George Pelecanos novels, "The Cut" features damaged people in perilous situations. But unlike some characters in recent books, Spero Lucas seeks out danger. He's an Iraqi war vet who saw terrible things that he doesn't like to talk about, unless he's with other Marines. Now that he's home, he feeds his craving for adrenaline by recovering stolen property for dodgy people. His "cut" for taking on these assignments is 40% of the value of the recovered items. When Lucas agrees to recover lost marijuana for a local crime boss, he finds himself battling some nasty, nihilist characters, holdovers from the days when DC was the murder capital and drug lords ruled neighborhoods that have since been gentrified. As always, Pelecanos depicts DC with unerring accuracy. If you want to discover a city that's overlooked by the tour buses, read this book. An additional bonus of "The Cut" is its exploration of DC restaurants and diners; Lucas likes to eat well and he knows where to get a good meal,My one problem with this book was Lucas. Pelecanos' style is show, not tell, which means his novels are fast-paced and great reads, but there's not much introspection. At times, Lucas feels more like a comic book hero (he's ripped, smart and a sex machine) than a real man. This is the first part of a series featuring Lucas, and like a true crime novelist, Pelecanos leaves us wanting more.
I love times like this when I find a new-to-me author who has a long backlist for me to read as well. I won this book from LibraryThing. Since I hadn't read Pelecanos before, I was a little concerned, but all is well - I loved this book and this hero. Can't wait to find the rest of his books to read.The hero is Spero Lucas. Now all this may be familiar to you, but if not, Lucas is a Marine Corp vet who served in Iraq. Now he works as an investigator for a lawyer and, as in this instance, occasionally takes on a job independently. This one is, believe it or not, for a drug kingpin who is in prison awaiting trial. The title of the book comes from the fact that he gets a 40% cut in his work.Lucas takes umpteen showers a day, changes his clothes just about as often, but not for vanity; this guy is clean-cut and fit. He bikes, kayaks, does calisthenics in his apartment, anything to keep as fit as possible. I can just see his six pack and guns. Girls, this guy is sexy. And he loves women, even treats them very well. I'm reminded of Robert B. Parker's Spenser in many ways. However, he does goof sometimes or strike out with a woman, i.e., he's human. I love that in a hero.Pelecanos has a spare writing style with no long, flowery descriptions. I admire his ability to create a character or give the reader a scene without long descriptions. He shows what a person is like; hence the exercise and showers and women. His villains also are evil but three dimensional. One loves to learn the proper use of big fancy words to impress his friends, which just serves to convince them he's a dunce. One of the main rules of writing, one frequently ignored, is to show rather than tell. Pelecanos has mastered this technique.I highly recommend this book for mystery lovers. Now I'm off to the library to look for more Pelecanos books.
Spero Lucas will find things for a fee. Forty percent of the recovered item's worth, no questions asked. If you think the fee is steep, then find another way of locating your missing or misplaced whatever. As a side job, Spero is more than capable as working part-time as an inspector for a defense attorney, it pays the bills. His real niche is the ability to see the details, backed with dogged determination, and a sense of personal morals that don't always see eye to eye with the written law.When this attention to detail cements a verdict on a stolen vehicle, clearing a noted drug dealer's son, the incarcerated dealer asks for Spero to help him locate missing drugs. Utilizing Fed-Ex for shipping the drugs to unsupervised homes, the packages have recently been intercepted. It's worth the fee to discover the whereabouts of the shipment, until two young men, highly trusted, and second in command in the small organization are killed. Now the dealer no longer wants Spero to find his missing shipment. Spero has other ideas, since the case has become personal, and he's going to follow the trail to the end. He's trying to turn a wrong into a right, all the while struggling to come to terms with his own inner demons, and personal losses. He's a man with a lot of unanswered questions and no clear idea how to confront them. Pelecanos gives the reader a great sense of place, introducing the DC neighborhoods and their denizens in rich colors and depth, deepening the main character's past and present with his surroundings. I thoroughly enjoyed the start of this series and am anxious to add more of his writings to my library.
I thought "The Cut" by George Pelecanos was a good book but not as good as the others by him I had read, including at least two from the Derek Strange series. This is the first in a new series featuring Spero Lucas, a Marine war vet who saw lots of action in Iraq. Spero does occasional freelance investigations for a highly regarded criminal defense attorney in D.C., and he also does some freelance work to "retrieve" property for his own clients. His new client is in jail awaiting trial on some heavy charges; this is not a good sign. Why would someone want to get involved with a guy like this? Anyway Spero goes about attempting to find packages that go missing soon after delivery, and its not long before bodies start dropping, dead. In the midst of this we meet Spero's family and follow his other interests like biking and kayaking.Here's where I started to have some problems with this book. Generally, I found that Spero was too.......everything. He's a nice guy - after wiping out a few of D.C.'s less reputable citizens he spends the night playing Scrabble with his elderly landlady (c'mon!), and he visits Mom, and he goes to Church regularly, and he's always politically correct, and.....This "too much" criticism extends to Pelecanos also in his descriptions of things (too many brand names), landmarks, restaurants, music, books, street names......Hey, I really like following some of the characters' city journeys from here to there, street by street on Google Maps and Google Earth more than most people but it was too much even for me. But it did a lot to fill what was a quick read, a very quick read. Two other issues I had with "Cut", one being a decision by Spero to initiate some action that could lead the story to only one conclusion, yet there is never any indication that this occurs to Spero. Secondly, the whole book reads like a screenplay to me - this is not a compliment. I doubt very much that I'll read the next Spero book. Completed 8/26/11, rated generous 2.5 stars.
George Pelecanos, writer and producer of The Wire, certainly knows his way around an edgy, noir-ish crime story. In The Cut, he introduces Spero Lucas, a former Marine back from Iraq, who makes his living finding lost things for people. He's taken a new job that's led him deeper than he ever intended.The Cut is a mostly well-written crime novel. It's not the most original story, but that's not detrimental since the writing's good. Pelecanos keeps the action moving, and Lucas is an interesting lead character. My two quibbles with the book are the lack of depth in most of the characters beyond Lucas and Pelecanos' obsessive need to prove he knows DC like the back of his hand. In the end, though, The Cut is a decent read, and a promising beginning to a new series.
The new book by George Pelecanos is said to be the first in a new series built around Spero Lucas, a young Marine veteran living back in his hometown of Washington, D.C.As usual, Pelecanos knows his way not only around a thriller but around the seamier side of our nation's capital. He introduces us to Spero, who tells people his job is "recovering stolen property," just as he is about to embark on a task for a lawyer. This leads him to a second job for a drug kingpin who claims he's not into violence, just moving product. PThe book moves quickly and is entertaining. Spero is likable and interesting and you can see how the author will be able to build more stories around him. What kept me from giving the book four stars is that the plot itself holds no surprises or real twists. Still, I would recommend the book to readers looking for an easy and pleasurable read.