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Hell to Pay [Mass Market Paperback]

George Pelecanos
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1 2003
Private investigators Derek Strange and Terry Quinn ("Right As Rain") are hired to find a 14-year-old suburban runaway who's working as a prostitute. But nothing prepares these former D.C. cops for the pimp whose territory they're intruding upon.

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Product Description

From Amazon

In Hell to Pay, Washington, D.C., is just one more thug in an endless list of thugs who brutalize the poor, the weak, and the young. The primary victim this time is a rising star on Derek Strange's Pee Wee football team. In this city where making T-shirts for bereaved families of young murder victims is a full-time business, the boy is an accidental victim in a war between drug dealers and lowlifes.

Private investigator Strange, in his second George Pelecanos outing (after 2001's Right as Rain), has seen enough of this face of D.C. His relationship to his secretary/lover Janine sputters in the wake of increasing, irrational infidelities. His moral compass swings wildly as he tracks the killers, Garfield "Death" Potter and friends. Not knowing if he can be satisfied seeing these men in prison, Strange contemplates other brands of "justice."

For fans of Pelecanos, all the usual trappings are here: the hyper-real dialogue, the bloody street fights, the immersion in classic R&B, and the most current music on the streets. Pelecanos does stumble in a few places. His narrative becomes wooden at times, and his plot features a couple of glaring coincidences (e.g., Strange just happens to jot down the license plate of a car that later turns out to be the one driven by the murderers). But Pelecanos is the real deal in noir. If Dennis Lehane owns Boston and Michael Connelly is master of L.A., Pelecanos is dark D.C.'s intimate chronicler. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

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, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best of the year March 4 2004
By Larry
Format:Mass Market Paperback
One of today's finest writers of crime fiction is George Pelecanos. He has previously written the "Washington quartet"-- a group of books, actually historical mysteries, that took place over a number of years and shared characters. His latest series concerns PIs Derek Strange and Terry Quinn. Strange started Strange Investigations and hired Quinn, a retired police officer. I considered the first book in the series, RIGHT AS RAIN, to be one of the best books of last year.
Several separate plots are occurring simultaneously. Strange and Quinn are hired to recover a fourteen year old girl working as a prostitute for Worldwide Wilson, a hardened operative. One of the problems is that the girl does not want to go home. Another plot concerns three homicidal young men who want to knock off a man who owes them money. The man is an uncle to one of the boys playing on Strange's youth football team that he coaches. When the boy becomes involved, Strange and Quinn want vengeance.
HELL TO PAY is another sterling example of what makes George Pelecanos one of the best. He is a master of characters and dialogue. They reflect the highly realistic milieu of the nation's capital where this series takes place. He successfully balances these superb characterizations with a truly riveting plot. The book is also just the right size. Other practitioners of the crime fiction art would do very well to read and learn from this very, very fine writer. One of the best of the year.
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By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
There are very few authors who have that result after having read one of their books. He hits the winners list. The story dragged. The switching of viewpoints can be wonderful if done properly. This wasn't one of them. I kept feeling like slapping the main characters and saying "OH just get on with it." The feel of the book was disjointed before I started to skip parts due to sheer boredom. What really suprised me was skipping didn't hurt the feel one bit. The disjointed rating stayed the same. Somehow I don't think that can be classified as good writing. The characters didn't save the day and involve me enough to make me want to read.
I felt like slapping the author when I had to skip what became boring recitations of all the songs he knows. I pray it is all he knows. I would hate to think there is more in store for us. There is a LOT of difference in listening to music, finding it in a movie sound track and reading about it. Save it for the movie if it ever makes it. Read Vachss for how it is suppose to be done and spare us Please.
The story just didn't hold together well enough to avoid me starting the old skip this. Even with all the skipping I did I found I didn't lose much. That says a lot.
I looked at his new one and ran far far away to writers I know I enjoy.
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By lazza
Format:Mass Market Paperback
George Pelecanos is deservedly earning a loyal following of folks who like his urban Washington-based stories of crime, drugs, and residents who are sick of it yet can't escape. Pelecanos obviously has a love-hate relationship with his hometown. Yet after reading his books I fear most folks wouldn't want to get near it.
'Hell to Pay' is standard Pelecanos material. His characterizations are uniformly excellent, the prose is intelligent yet accessible, and he really captures the 'feel' of the urban ghettos in and around Washington. In this book we have a couple of private investigators, both former cops, involved with coping with brutal crimes close to their hearts. Both wrestle with the temptation of revenge. The reader has to wait until the last pages to know if these guys turn into vigilantes or manage to keep their own heads above the law.
Yet 'Hell to Pay' is not a perfect read. While very enjoyable I found the plot to be surprisingly ... unengaging, or at least much of it fairly predictable. Maybe I am just too much of a fan of George Pelecanos and I expect too much, or his style has become simply too familiar? Regardless, 'Hell to Pay' is still a very good book.
Bottom line: not a classic, but a fine example of contemporary American crime fiction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Return to the Mean Streets of DC Oct. 18 2002
By A. Ross
Format:Hardcover
I've lived in DC for 20 years, my family is from here, and Pelecanos is only the second author I've come across who writes about the DC that I know and recognize (the other is Edward Jones, check out his story collection "Lost in the City" if you can find it). In his tenth book, middle-aged PI Derek Strange and younger white ex-cop Terry Quinn return for their second tour of DC's mean streets following Right as Rain.
If the theme of that last book was racism, this one's is hopelessness. The two main stories revolve around teenagers who have lost any sense of hope and whose existence has spiraled into ugliness from which they are incapable of breaking free. One of these stories follows three boys as they peddle hydro (pot), boost cars, bet o dogfights, listen to tunes, eat fast food, and eventually commit murder. The trio are emblematic of many kids who grow up in the ghetto, with no fathers, no guidance, and ultimately no hope. All they have is their street rep and a resignation that they will die young. When they murder someone close to Strange, he races to identify and track them down before the police do. The other story revolves around a nasty pimp (as if there's any other kind) who specializes in teenage talent, and what happens when Quinn helps a prostitution support group try and extract one of the girls and take her home.
The antidote to this theme of hopelessness is Strange and Quinn's coaching a neighborhood Pee-Wee football team where they try to teach the boys the right way to live and to see that life holds possibilities for them. Of course, as in all Pelecanos' books, there's a running dark tone that lets the reader know there are few happy endings in this world.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Hell of a Read!
I really enjoyed this second novel in the Derek Strange series. HELL TO PAY is an action novel from beginning to end with a great deal of substance in between. Read more
Published on June 8 2004 by Sal Paradise
1.0 out of 5 stars Hell to Read
I'm not a big fan of crime fiction, but I had read some good reviews on this story in some Men's magazine and figured I'd pick it up. Read more
Published on April 19 2004 by Scott
5.0 out of 5 stars Memorable
If you are feeling down and are looking for a book to pick you up, this is NOT the one. It is a grim and depressing story about the harsh realities of inner city life. Read more
Published on Oct. 30 2003 by John D. Costanzo
4.0 out of 5 stars " Noir" novel complete with the music and language...
George Pelecanos drags the reader into the heart of Washington D.C. and changes a "statistic" into a real, living, breathing child with a future that is torn from him,... Read more
Published on July 29 2003 by jeanne-scott
1.0 out of 5 stars Hell to listen to
This audio book, like many of those by "Brilliance Audio" is difficult to listen to...especially while driving. Read more
Published on Feb. 28 2003 by Kai Dozier
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!
It took me a while to get on the George Pelecanos bandwagon, but with "Hell to Pay" I am in the fan club. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2003 by nobizinfla
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book, but quite odd at times.
In general, Hell to Pay was a very good book. It kept me reading and never really bored me all too much. Read more
Published on Aug. 23 2002 by Aaron Scott
4.0 out of 5 stars An Enjoyable, Quick Read
George Pelecanos Hell to Pay is an enjoyable read full of quick wit and fast dialogue. Pelecanos focuses on Derek Strange, a private investigator in DC and his partner Terry... Read more
Published on Aug. 16 2002 by Elizabeth Hendry
2.0 out of 5 stars He can't seem to maintain it
I've read all of Pelecanos's novels. Enjoyed the early ones so much that I really looked forward to his two most recent offerings (i.e., Right as Rain and Hell to Pay). Read more
Published on July 26 2002
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