The Barnes & Noble Review
Standing somewhere between the gritty works of Michael Connelly and James Ellroy, George Pelecanos has firmly wedged himself into the top echelon of crime writers and mined an area of suspense that's all his own. Long admired as a cult novelist, he now broadens his range in theme and character to come up with a combination that will take him to the top of the bestseller lists.
Derek Strange and Terry Quinn -- who first appeared in Pelecanos's Right as Rain -- are private investigators who occasionally work together. When Strange is hired by a pair of female ex-cop P.I.'s to find a teenage prostitute, he farms the job out to Quinn. Strange, who spends most of his free time coaching neighborhood kids in football, is on the hunt for a trio of hoodlums who've been causing trouble in his neighborhood. The leader, known as "D" (which stands for "Death"), prowls the football fields, and Strange must do everything in his power to protect his kids. Quinn follows up on his hunt for the runaway suburban girl turned hooker and is eventually led to Worldwide Wilson, a vicious pimp who will murder anyone who tries to take what's his.
Strange and Quinn are by no means perfect heroes. Each must struggle with his own particular burden. Strange, who's torn between a lasting love and an appetite for prostitutes, frequents the world of massage parlors. Quinn, who was stigmatized after killing a fellow police officer, has such a short fuse that he can rarely deal with the snitches he needs for information.
The author's attention to the seamy side of Washington, D.C., is a powerful draw; its perverse aspects add credible facets to the protagonists and villains. The story flies by with such speed that you'll suffer from friction burns from turning the pages so quickly. Once again, George Pelecanos proves eminently capable of turning in a cunningly crafted story that transcends the street-crime subgenre. Hell to Pay is a novel that works as an intense character portrait and leaves the reader moved and electrified. (Tom Piccirilli)
Looks like his long overdue big-league breakthrough a suspenseful, unusually cinematic thriller.
You know you're in Pelecanos country when the music begins early a trio of street thugs on their way to a dogfight listen to "the new DMX joint on PGC, turned up loud" and continues to throb all the way through this second book in the author's hardboiled and heartbreaking series centered around Washington, D.C., private detective Derek Strange. A black man in his 50s, Strange first notices these particular thugs when they hang out around a Pee Wee football team he is coaching. Their appearance comes to seem more sinister in retrospect, when Strange's nine-year-old star quarterback is shot and killed at an ice cream stand. While Strange hunts for the men who shot the boy, his partner, Terry Quinn, an Irish Catholic ex-cop, gets pulled into an attempt to save a young runaway turned prostitute from a big-time pimp and falls for one of the tough women organizing the rescue. Meanwhile, Strange goes through a rocky period with his longtime lover (and secretary) Janine, forced to consider what his massage-parlor habit is doing to their relationship. The novel's turf the nontourist parts of Washington, D.C., neighborhoods where so many young black children die that selling T-shirts with their pictures on them at their wakes and funerals has become a cottage industry was staked out successfully in Pelecanos's earlier books about the sons and grandsons of Greek immigrants and now is extended to focus chiefly on the District's black majority. It is Pelecanos's intimate understanding of this volatile D.C. and the complexity of Strange a rich, sometimes frustrating but always warmly human character that should keep this series fresh for a long time to come. (Feb. 19) Forecast: Little, Brown is betting $100,000 in marketing dollars (not to mention a 20-city author tour) that this will be the book that propels cult favorite Pelecanos onto the bestseller lists and they may be right. Few writers deserve a boost as much as the hardworking, fearlessly gritty and engagingly idiosyncratic Pelecanos. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Derek Strange, a middle-aged black man from the bad side of Washington, DC, coaches a boy's football team and tries to be a role model, yet he can't seem to stop visiting massage parlors. When one of his players is accidentally shot in a drug murder, he goes after the killers. His friend and employee Terry Quinn gets hired to help locate a young runaway turned prostitute, but when her pimp, Worldwide Wilson, disrespects Quinn, it turns personal. The characters are so strong in this book that the plots seem a little undernourished in comparison and never really cohere. Pelecanos has some interesting traits as a writer, especially his state-of-the-art slang and the way he sketches characters by describing their favorite music. If he verbs a little too often (trays get ashed, cars get ignitioned), his language keeps the story flowing. He writes bravely about race, too, often in outstanding dialog. If reader Richard Allen can sometimes be a little hard to understand delivering this dialog, well, that's part of the point, too. A good addition to noir collections. John Hiett, Iowa City P.L. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
A drive-by shooting that ordinarily wouldn't even rate the front page of the Washington Post Metro section pits p.i. Derek Strange (Right as Rain, 2001) against a city full of men behaving badly.