Picks and Pans Review: Right as Rain
Page-turner of the week
Red carpets and black limousines are worlds away from the slums of Pelecanos's Washington, D.C. His sordid noirs unfold in neighborhoods blighted by pushers, homeless addicts and "suburban white kids who want to be street." The language is as rough as kissing asphalt, and Pelecanos vividly portrays the nuances of racial tension, the territorial braggadocio of cops and pushers, and youth slang ("I gotta bounce").
Having completed a trilogy (King Suckerman, The Sweet Forever, Shame the Devil), Pelecanos here launches another D.C. series with a new protagonist, middle-aged black ex-cop Derek Strange. Strange enjoys the odd fling with his ex-girlfriend Janine and tries to be a father figure to her teenage son, but he wants to play the field too.
When a black cop is mistaken for a criminal by a white officer who kills him, the black cop's reputation is tarnished in the press. Strange, hired to clear the dead cop's name, hits it off with the shooter, Terry Quinn. As the pair jawbone about rock and soul music, an uneasy friendship develops. Quinn, who has begun dating a mixed-race woman, searches his own soul for the reason he fired his weapon. Was it racism or color-blind reflex? The truth is a jumble, and to sort it out, Quinn and Strange must cross paths with a brutal redneck drug addict, a ruthless black kingpin and a crooked cop on steroids. (Little, Brown, $24.95)
Bottom Line: Chilling, cold-blooded tale