"Right As Rain" by George Pelecanos
I'm going to say it right off: Right as Rain is a kick-ass book. If you haven't read it, you should kick yourself. First off, it's vivid writing. Consider the first sentence: "What Derek Strange was worried about, looking at Jimmy Simmons sitting there, spilling over a chair on the other side of his desk, was that Simmons was going to pick some of Strange's personal shit up off the desktop in front of him and start winging it across the room."
Already I'm liking this Derek Strange character. Turns out he's a successful black PI into the tools of the trade and the rules of common-sense detection. He's a man who prefers to finesse a situation, not see it go nuclear. If you're looking for a psychic wound, don't look at Derek.
He ends up partnering with Terry Quinn, a much younger white dude wanting to mix it up with any bad guy that crosses his path. Terry's down on his luck, eager to redeem himself, and he's got psychic wounds galore, on account of his shooting of a black cop in a dicey situation. Although cleared in the police investigation, the media and his own conscience have gutted him. When the story begins, Terry is working in a book store.
You've probably guessed that this book is all about race: about prejudice on both sides of the black/white divide, and about how folks who believe they're color-blind can still make deadly miscalculations. And finally, about how people can learn to work together anyway.
The novel was shaped by the author's own childhood, when DC erupted in riots following the Martin Luther King assassination in the summer of 1968. Pelecanos was eleven, and he claims his life was changed forever. He knows his characters, and that's hard to fake.
You won't find the White House or the Smithsonian in Pelecanos's DC. He favors the working class neighborhoods and back alleys of the city:
If you have trouble with reading gritty material, then don't read this book -- the grit is the size of river rock. And I haven't even told you about the drug dealers in this story. Whoa! There's a pair of white trash crank dealers that will stand your hair on end. And the black hoodlums who deal with them are even deadlier. Strange and Quinn employ every weapon in their arsenal when they go against these guys to sort out the story of what really happened the night Terry gunned down his fellow officer.
Right as Rain has a great cast of characters that I either cared about or was scared of. Its fast-paced, twisty plot kept me guessing right up to the final showdown. I love this book And you should too. Read it.
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