"Right As Rain" by George Pelecanos
Review by Lily Gardner

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:

He (Strange) passed an African and a Thai restaurant, and Vinyl Ink, the music store that still sold records, and a jewelry and watch-repair shop that catered to Spanish, and one of many braid-and-nail and dry-cleaning storefronts that low-rised the downtown business district of Silver Spring.

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.

Right As Rain...Buy this book...Buy the audiobook...Kindle it!
By George Pelecanos
Little Brown, copyright 2001.

Thrilling Detective Reviewer-at-Large Lily Gardner grew up in Minneapolis longing to be blonde and live in California surfing and writing poetry. Over the years her tastes changed: California became Oregon and poetry became mysteries. She learned to embrace her brunette self. Lily loves all things noir, fermentation, Motown, opera, and short-legged dogs.

She currently lives in Portland with her husband, two corgis, several thousand books and one electronic reader.
A Bitch Called Hope, a noir mystery set on the rainy streets of Portland, is Lily's first novel and featuring private eye Lennox Cooper. She is currently working on her second Cooper noir: Betting Blind..


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