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Right As Rain [Hardcover]

George P Pelecanos
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 6 2001
The mother of a young police officer killed by another cop hires Derek Strange to clear up the lingering doubts surrounding her sons death. After Strange interviews the accused cop Quinn, he joins the investigation, even though in part he is investigating himself and whether his own prejudices led him to pull the trigger.

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George Pelecanos's Washington, D.C., is a far cry from the upwardly mobile, tourist-attraction-speckled enclave of Margaret Truman (Murder at the National Cathedral, Murder in Georgetown). Pelecanos's capital is a haunting terrain of drugs and death, a no man's land of posturing dealers and skeletal warehouses that shelter their buyers:

A rat scurried into a dim side room, and a withered black face receded into the darkness. The face belonged to a junkie named Tonio Morris. He was one of the many bottom-of-the-food-chain junkies, near death and too weak to cut out a space of their own on the second floor; later, when the packets were delivered to those with cash, they'd trade anything they had, anything they'd stolen that day, or any orifice on their bodies for some rock or powder.
When PI Derek Strange is hired by Chris Wilson's mother to find out why her son, a black cop, was killed by a white cop, Terry Quinn, on a dark night in that no man's land, Strange figures that the answer is painfully clear: a typical case of mistaken identity, fueled by the assumptions and preconceptions of Quinn's innate racism. But what Strange finds is a tentative kinship with Quinn, who is desperate to proclaim himself "color-blind." Kicked off the force and convinced that there's more to his own story, Quinn asks to join Strange in his investigation. As the two pry into the past, drifting through the neighborhoods both men have known all their lives, they find themselves enmeshed in a tangle of cold-blooded competition and heated personal enmity.

Pelecanos generally has a light touch with the treacherous quagmire of -isms, veering only occasionally into sententious meanderings about the consequences of an economically and racially divided society. His wry humor, particularly in his descriptions of Earl and Ray, the heroin middlemen who bring the concept of white trash to a depressingly low level, leavens the novel's noir bleakness. And Strange himself is a compelling character: a middle-aged black man who has seen more of life's callousness than he cares to admit, and whose jitteriness about personal commitment speaks volumes about his own expectations for happiness. A strong character and a good read--Pelecanos fans can settle in and look forward to Strange's next appearance. --Kelly Flynn

From Publishers Weekly

Nearly a decade after Pelecanos (Shame the Devil; Nick's Trip) introduced Nick Stefanos to the private eye scene, the hard-boiled specialist has come up with a new urban gumshoe who's just as tantalizing to watch in action. Derek Strange, a black ex-cop in his mid-50s, walks the same Washington, D.C., streets as Stefanos, yet does so with far more experience under his belt. In his debut, Strange is hired to answer nagging questions about the death of black police officer Chris Wilson, who was killed by another cop in a shootout. Police investigators cleared Terry Quinn, the white cop who killed Wilson, but Strange soon discovers several hidden issues that may put a different spin on the case. Quinn confirms that he shot Wilson in self-defense, but admits he remains disturbed by the actions of the other people present at the scene of the conflict. Strange enlists his aid in the investigation and the case takes both men deep into the worlds of drug dealing, police corruption and racism. The plot rolls along in a workmanlike, almost predictable fashion. Yet as is usually the case with Pelecanos, it's the characters who give the story the gritty, dark twists that have become the author's trademark. The cast is wonderfully varied, yet Pelecanos also manages to capture the essence of most of his characters with just a few descriptive licks. It's Strange, however, who steals the show. He's a mature man with a highly defined sense of who he is--an aging private eye who knows that his best weapons these days are his wits and wisdom. (Feb. 6)Forecast: A new Pelecanos series hero is big news in the noir world. British, Italian, French and Japanese rights have already been sold, and a five-city author tour will start sales rolling in the U.S.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I read five of Pelecanos' books in a row, and finally had to stop myself- not because I was burning myself out on them, but because they're simply that good and I want to savor them. Unfortunately, some of his earlier Nick Stefanos and Dimitri Karras books are hard to find and exist only in overpriced paperback editions. Knowing that, I started with the Derek Strange books, since they're in print and easy to find at bookstores and libraries. Pelecanos is frequently compared to Micahel Connelly and Dennis Lehane, but I think he's a lot better. Given that those two are fantastic writers, that's quite a compliment- sort of like saying that The Beatles are better than The Stones and The Who...
Derek Strange is one of the more realistic characters I've met in any genere. He's a flawed but basically decent man struggling with the social issues that confront him in his personal and professional life. Pelecanos conveys a social conscience without becoming preachy, and Strange is the perfect vehicle for this. His settings are not the tired, overused streets of NYC or Los Angeles, but instead the familiar but less literary-travelled areas surroudning Washington DC. His DC is not the political Beltway, but rather the complex urban area that offers the tremendous positivies and the horrific negatives of any major city. In addition to a remarkably sympathetic and detailed protagonist, Pelecanos creates some truly repulsive bad guys- thoroughly evil, but utterly impossible to turn away from.
Some reviews criticize Pelecanos for his overuse of musical references. I disagree- I think that the constant reference to the music being listened to by the character sets the mood and tone as much as do the descritions of place.
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1.0 out of 5 stars right as rain June 3 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
i have read 160 pages and still am not compelled to continue this book to the end. the plot is boring and predictable . it does not pull you forward, wondering what happens next. the writing is very good, no question about that; but it proceeds too slowly and has not grabbed my interest. i will read lahaine, colben, crais, and connelly before coming back to pelecanos.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Pelecanos Knows DC! May 15 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I read this novel after reading SOUL CIRCUS and this was one of the prequels to that novel which unfortunately is probably the last novel that the character Terry Quinn will appear in. RIGHT AS RAIN introduces Derek Strange and Terry Quinn and the origins of their friendship and their differences (other than race) that they often have to contend with. I would have to say that Terry Quinn is a more developed character in this novel than in SOUL CIRCUS but I have yet to read HELL TO PAY which next on my reading list. The story is fast paced and gritty. Washington, DC is described with every brutal and gritty detail. It reads like a postmodern Chester Himes novel. A clear distinction of good and evil in some instances but also grey and shady areas where the lines are not so easily drawn. Quinn is actually a likable character in this novel.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Dead Boring March 22 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Dull slow story, dull characters. I'd read Walter Mosley over this Pelecanos when it comes to stories involving black characters.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Annoying Jan. 16 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Not much of a mystery - more like a sociological treatise masquarading as a mystery. Race is on center stage in this book, but only in a slipshod way. Basically, the black characters are drawn as multi-dimensional human beings, while most of the white characters are stock villians. As such, it starts to remind you of Blaxploitation literature of the '70s. As a resident of DC, I was also irritated by the endless moaning over how the city has changed in recent years, as though its a sin to open a decent restaurant downtown! All in all it was a decent read, but I won't be coming back for more.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but Compelling May 29 2003
By snalen
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Pelecanos' writing sometimes threatens to sink under the weight of its own savvy hipness. That said, he writes vivid, gripping, intelligent character-driven stories and this is no exception. Derek Strange, a black Washington PI is hired by the mother of a black policeman who has died in a shooting incident involving a white colleague, Terry Quinn. The mother's suspicions focus on Quinn and she is keen for Strange to dig into his background where she is sure something sinister awaits discovery. In fact, Strange and Quinn quite quickly become friends and together find much that is plenty sinister to uncover in quite different aspects of the incident. The plot is neatly put together, and Pelecanos has thoughtful and perceptive things to say about the psychological dynamics of racial distrust. The characterization is generally convincing though more so with the good guys than with the bad and much more so with male than female characters.
Two small-ish qualms. In the first place, Pelecanos would probably do well to give up on sex scenes. When - as is the case here - they are weakly done and add nothing to our understanding of character or plot, they feel gratuitous and cynical. In the second place, I am certain the paragraph on pp8-9 describing Strange's professional equipment is not a case of literary product placement but it does read alarmingly like advertising copy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another author to add to my favorites!! April 6 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
After reading the reviews here on Amazon.com over and over again, I finally decided to check out "Right as Rain" for myself and see what all the fuss what about, and I'm so glad I did!
George Pelecanos has a unique way of writing that's different than any author I've ever read.
"Right as Rain" is an intriguing crime story that grabbed my attention from the beginning and didn't let go.
Derek Strange and Terry Quinn are both ex-cops from different backgrounds who meet as a result of an investigation Strange is conducting. He's now a private investigator asked to look into the shooting death of a black police officer shot by Quinn. The story takes a lot of unexpected twists and turns once he reluctantly accepts help from Quinn and the two of them start getting closer and closer to the truth.
It's an excellent novel, and will not be my last by Pelecanos. I'm hooked! I've already ordered the next two in this great series.
Check it out for yourself, you won't be disappointed!
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