George Pelecanos published his first book in 1992. He has been writing novels that are set in the Washington, D.C., area ever since. You may not have read his books but you might have seen some of his television productions.
Pelecanos was nominated for an Emmy for his work on “The Wire” on HBO.
He was a producer, story editor, and writer for that program. He was also a writer on the TV miniseries “The Pacific.” He’s currently working on the HBO series “Treme.”
His latest novel, “The Double,” is the second book in his series that features Spero Lucas, an Iraq War veteran now employed as a private investigator. In the first novel, “The Cut,” Pelecanos revealed that Lucas was choosing to continue to live an adrenaline charged existence like the one he knew during the war. He thrives on danger.
The title of that book refers to the forty per cent finder’s fee, the cut that Lucas charges his clients for the recovery of their stolen property. He’s even willing to work for criminals. In that first book he was hired to locate some stolen marijuana. His client was actually running his drug ring from within the confines of prison.
Lucas also does some investigative work for an attorney. In “The Double” this lawyer is defending a man who has been charged with murdering a young woman who had attended the same inner city high school where Spero’s brother teaches.
He spends time trying to establish that somebody else had actually committed the murder. That task becomes secondary when his services are retained to locate and take back a stolen painting. This piece of artwork is very valuable. It was the portrait of two men. This picture was named “The Double.” If Lucas can locate it and get it back his cut will be substantial.
Pelecanos is a masterful plotter. Lucas mulls over some disparate threads that will somehow come together and unite seemingly unconnected clues. There’s someone running an on-line scam. The scammer pretends he’s in the military and that he’s trying to sell a car before he is shipped overseas.
Lucas is outraged by this scam. He eventually determines there’s a link between the used car scam and this stolen painting. A criminal named Billy King, a muscular blond surfer type is the leader of a trio of thieves. King learned of the existence of the painting from a crooked art dealer.
King sought out the woman who owned the picture. He seduced her to gain access to it then absconded with it. She then hired Lucas to find it.
Suffice it to say that Lucas doesn’t concern himself with obeying laws as he delivers his distinctive version of justice.
During the ultimate showdown in this gritty novel King tells Lucas that the two of them actually have a lot in common. Lucas doesn’t want to accept that he could ever be considered the double for this vicious thief. Our title “The Double” acquires a double meaning.
The author appeared recently at the Texas Book Festival. He declared “I will probably never write a book not set in DC. It’s my life’s work.”
His loyal fans should be pleased to hear it.
This week’s book
“The Double” by George Pelecanos (Little, Brown, 292 pages, $26)