George Pelecanos has established himself as one of America’s most distinguished crime writers, rising above the crowded halls of thriller bestsellerdom to create works that balance primal authenticity with unpretentious literary prowess. The Cut is a no frills detective story about a tough man in a tough situation. It’s the kind of tale that few can do as well as Pelecanos, and it’s more proof that he’s among the very best American writers working today.
Spero Lucas is a Greek kid from Washington D.C. who served in Iraq and then came home to a life as a private investigator. It’s not a bad gig. He sets his own hours, spends time with his brother and his mother and gets lucrative work from a D.C. defense attorney. When Lucas’ keen eye for detail helps the son of an imprisoned crime boss avoid jail time, the boss offers him a job: find out who’s been stealing big shipments of drugs from their drop-off points. Lucas agrees and asks for his usual cut of 40 percent of the recovered property. In this case, that amounts to just over $50,000.
What begins as a simple mystery of stolen goods quickly begins to unravel into a chaotic mass of murder, secrets, crooked cops and threats. Spero finds himself in deeper than any of his investigations have ever taken him. It’s almost like he’s back in Iraq. Suddenly, he’s at war.
The Cut as a title begins as a reference to the percentage Spero charges for his services, but as the novel becomes more dangerous, and Spero wades deeper into a treacherous game, it also becomes a reference to the psychological wounds he already bears, and the new ones beginning to make their mark as a simple job becomes a fight for his life.
There’s nothing complicated about The Cut. It’s a detective story, and it works well as a detective story, but it’s not ornamented with any of the tired gimmicks that dominate modern crime thrillers. What makes The Cut special is the way the tale is told.
Few crime writers working today can muster the simple narrative power Pelecanos brings to a work. It’s a perfect balance of hard-boiled punch and literary sophistication, without any sense of lingering too long on either. The result is a story that’s taut, gripping and addictive.
The Cut cements George Pelecanos as a titan among American crime writers. This book will keep you up late reading and then stick in your head like a bullet.
The Cut is in bookstores August 29
Advance Reading Copy courtesy of Little Brown