Hell to Pay Mass Market Paperback – Mar 1 2003
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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. See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Tracy and Bagley hire Quinn to track down a 14-year-old runaway who is controlled by pimp Worldwide Wilson. Terry screws up the snatch, Susan bails him out and they become a hot item in the aftermath.
On a parallel story line, Potter and co. kill Lorenze and his nephew Joe on their way home from Pee Wee football practice. Lorenze's sister has been raising Joe on her own, never telling him who his father is. He's a force that will figure into the rest of the story.
Though 2/3 of D.C. homicides go unsolved, ther are enough clues and enough interest to get Joe Wilder's killers. Strange gets to Potter before the cops do. At the same time Terry is going after Worldwide who beat up Stella the working girl who tipped them to the runaway.
The two parallel showdowns are a stretch, but Pelecanos has a great way of letting justice be done. In the end the reader knows what happened to whom and is still left to speculate how Pelecanos expects the criminal justic system to clean things up.
Enough loose ends for a sequel? I hope so! Pelecanos never disappoints.
Regardless, I came away disappointed. The plot was fairly thin. Everything that took place could have fit into three or four chapters. There were no real twists or turns that made me feel compelled to keep turning the pages. Additionally, there were several scenes of . . . intimacy . . . that just felt like they didn't belong in the story at all. They seemed a little gratuitous (but certainly not overly indulgent). The characters all seemed relatively contrived.
The redeeming features of this book are the snapshots of life in Washington, DC it provides. Pelecanos' Washington is not the Washington that you will see on The West Wing or any feature film. This is a story of the real people that live and work in Washington everyday. Also, the dialogue seemed very real to me, which is an important element of any piece of fiction.
In the end, this was not an unpleasant read, but there are many more books I would recommend above Hell to Pay.
'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.
While Terry works the child prostitution case, Derek has a more personal vendetta to handle. Someone(s) killed the quarterback of the Pee Wee football team that Derek coaches while the kid was at an ice cream stand. At the same time Derek anguishes over the lad's murder, his longtime lover is all over him for his frequent visits to the massage parlor.
No one describes the neighborhoods of Washington DC better than George Pelecanos who take his audience on quite a vivid tour of the other side of Washington. The two subplots are well written and exciting, but the action is the streets of the city, homicide hot even on a wintry night. The characters are believable and make the story line sing while augmenting Mr. Pelecanos tour guide of the nation's capital. Fans of gritty urban investigative tales will want to read HELL TO PAY and its predecessor RIGHT AS RAIN because these are some of the best the sub-genre offer.
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished on June 8 2004 by Sal Paradise
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 morePublished on April 19 2004 by Reviewer #67845
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,... Read morePublished on March 4 2004 by Larry
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 morePublished on Oct. 30 2003 by John D. Costanzo
There are very few authors who have that result after having read one of their books. He hits the winners list. The story dragged. Read morePublished on Oct. 20 2003
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 morePublished on July 29 2003 by jeanne-scott
This audio book, like many of those by "Brilliance Audio" is difficult to listen to...especially while driving. Read morePublished on Feb. 28 2003 by Kaizen99
It took me a while to get on the George Pelecanos bandwagon, but with "Hell to Pay" I am in the fan club. Read morePublished on Feb. 12 2003 by nobizinfla
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... Read morePublished on Oct. 18 2002 by A. Ross