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The Double (Spero Lucas) Hardcover – October 8, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Reviewed by Patrick Millikin Pelecanos's novels have always kept one eye toward the recent past—a constant touchstone being the 1970s. The decade's popular culture, its fashion, film, music, and automobiles inform novels such as Hard Revolution, King Suckerman, and What It Was, which are set during one of the most tumultuous periods in the nation's history. In a way, all the novels that Pelecanos has written have been influenced by the Vietnam War. Now Pelecanos, a producer of The Wire and Treme who's also written for both HBO shows, has given us a new series that brings us right up to the present. With Spero Lucas, introduced in 2011's The Cut, Pelecanos has created one of his finest, and most complex, protagonists. An Iraq War combat veteran, Lucas has seen more than his share of death, but, unlike many of his returning peers, he has found work that allows him to tap into the heightened levels of adrenaline that were awakened overseas. His primary gig is as investigator for D.C. defense attorney Tom Petersen, who gives him a difficult case at the outset of this sequel to The Cut. A client, Calvin Bates, faces the death penalty for the first-degree murder of his mistress, Edwina Christian, whose body has been discovered in a nearby wooded area. Inconsistencies in the case, including physical evidence at the crime scene, have Lucas convinced that the story might not be as cut-and-dried as it appears. In the meantime, Lucas has found himself another side job, the retrieval of a stolen painting called The Double from a young divorcée's condo. His usual terms apply: 40% of the stolen item's value, in cash, no questions asked. The trail leads Lucas to a trio of thugs working together on various criminal enterprises: a Russian Internet scammer, a sociopathic lothario preying upon vulnerable women, and a young ex-con and former tweaker. As Lucas follows the various strands of his investigation, he finds himself enjoying the hunt, the prospect of violence that will result as he lures his quarry into the open, and the inevitable confrontation. Indeed, the painting itself becomes an apt metaphor for Lucas's life: the €œcivilized,€ outward identity and the darker shadow self, containing a primal warrior side that, as Pelecanos writes, he doesn't fully understand. While several of his most trusted friends, fellow Marines, have been able to leave the violence in them behind, Lucas has been unable to do so. Further complicating matters is a gorgeous, unavailable married woman, with whom Lucas has fallen into a passionate affair. At the background of the novel is Lucas's own family, his mixed-race siblings, his Greek-American parents. Pelecanos puts the race issue out there, but doesn't focus on it; the Lucases are simply a family, and a loving one. With respect for D.C.'s past on one side, and a vibrant, youthful new protagonist looking squarely into the future, this is the start of a remarkable series. Longtime Pelecanos diehards will be more than satisfied, and new readers will find themselves jonesing for more. Agent: Sloan Harris, ICM. (Oct.) Patrick Millikin is the editor of the Akashic anthology Phoenix Noir .

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Pelecanos fans who found in The Cut (2011) a return to the classic crime-fiction style of the author’s terrific Nick Stefanos novels will be doubly pleased with The Double: not only does it deliver another straight-ahead, head-banging, yet still character-focused crime story, but it also heralds the return of Spero Lucas, the Travis McGee–like knight errant who helps out clients who have lost something and keeps 40 percent of the take (McGee kept half). This time Spero comes to the aid of a fortysomething D.C. woman with bad taste in men; her latest wrong choice has robbed her of a valuable painting and her self-respect. Spero agrees to get the former back, and perhaps even a touch of the latter, but he quickly discovers that his antagonist, a sociopath who loves humiliating his victims more than he covets their possessions, will present a formidable obstacle and require the kind of Old West confrontation that Spero loves in spite of himself. In a kind of homage not only to John D. MacDonald (especially The Deep Blue Good-by) but also to Charles Willeford and Don Carpenter (all three are mentioned in the acknowledgments), Pelecanos reinterprets and updates the theme of the charismatic sociopath who revels in draining the souls of his willing victims, bringing a heightened sensitivity and social consciousness to the story without losing the visceral terror that drives the narrative. Those who know their crime-fiction history will love the references to earlier masters, but, finally, it’s Pelecanos with a new series up and running hard that’s the real cause for celebration here. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Pelecanos’ television credits—first for The Wire and currently for Treme—have extended the reach of his fame; to capitalize on that, Little, Brown is planning an extensive multimedia publicity campaign, --Bill Ott
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Product Details

  • Series: Spero Lucas
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (October 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316078395
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316078399
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (137 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #549,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

George P. Pelecanos was born in Washington, DC in 1957. His first novel was published in 1992 and alongside his consequential success as an author, he has also worked as producer, writer and story editor for the acclaimed and award-winning US crime series, The Wire. His writing for the show earned him an Emmy nomination.

He is the author of fifteen crime novels set in and around Washington, DC. The Big Blowdown was the recipient of the International Crime Novel of the Year award in both Germany and Japan; King Suckerman was shortlisted for the Gold Dagger Award in the UK. His short fiction has appeared in Esquire and the collections Unusual Suspects and Best American Mystery Stories of 1997. He is an award-winning journalist and pop-culture essayist who has written for the Washington Post.

Pelecanos can also claim credit for involvement in the production of several feature films. Most recently, as a screenwriter for film, he has written an adaptation of King Suckerman for Dimension Films, and was co-writer on the Paid in Full.

His novel Right as Rain is currently in development with director Curtis Hanson (LA Confidential, Wonder Boys) and Warner Brothers. He is a writer on the upcoming World War II miniseries The Pacific, to be produced by Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and HBO. Pelecanos lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and three children. He is at work on his next novel.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Blue in Washington TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Double" is a fine crime thriller set in the Nation's capital and environs, bringing the author back to home turf in a contemporary story. Some well drawn characters here, including protagonist Spero Lucas, a private eye with a military background and a very physical bent. The novel includes several cases running parallel, with all involving crimes against women (fraud, theft, murder and assault.) As a defender of female interests (and with a very active libido) Lucas takes on some very tough, though not so smart, criminals. His primary task in "The Double" is to retrieve a valuable painting stolen from a woman who has been badly misused by a manipulating lothario who serially targets lonely women.

Pelicanos makes his protagonist Lucas a very physical and slightly off-kilter guy who never shrinks from violent confrontation. It makes for an adrenalin-filled read. The book is well paced and includes a satisfying ending that gives a clear hint that Lucas could well appear in a sequel.

As a Washingtonian, I liked the familiar geographic settings and the up-to-date political asides and plentiful references to local culture--especially music.

I don't know if the publishers read Amazon reviews, but if they do--they might look into one glittering mistake in the story where hero Lucas takes two showers within 15 minutes of each other (o/a page 122) with not much action in between. This still recognizing that Lucas appears inclined to take a lot of showers for legitimate reasons throughout this novel. Just sayin"

One last observation--I was reading "The Double" in a week when one of the masters of the genre--Elmore Leonard--died. He can't be replaced, but Pelicanos certainly approaches his skill with evocation of place and in the portrayal of many of his offbeat characters.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Vital Spark VINE VOICE on October 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I greatly admire George Pelecanos' work and have been trying to read his novels in chronological order. The Double is the seventh I've read, and we have jumped from the crack-cocaine induced nightmare which Washington D.C. endured in the 1980's to the post 9/11 decade, and a number of the characters in this new novel are young men who have been traumatized in some way by their experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. The main character, Spero Lucas, is one of these young men. He has been spared physical injury, but is deeply troubled by his experiences, and has pretty much narrowed the important things in life down to a few essentials: " Sex, work, money, and a comfortable bed....A guy didn't need anything else."
He also enjoys fast, dangerous action, and he gets plenty of both as an "investigator" who specializes in restoring stolen property to its rightful owners.At one point I was thinking that he and John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee had a lot in common. But Spero is a much more realistic character; he has his faults and self doubts, makes mistakes, and sometimes does things that he knows are dumb.
The Double is another excellent Pelecanos offering which I recommend highly. Only quibble is that it takes a hundred pages to "get going".
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Pelecanos has been writing Washington, D.C.-set crime novels for twenty years now, and I've been reading them for just about as long. This is his 19th book, and if you liked what you got in the previous 18, well, you're gonna get more of the same. All the familiar authorial tics are there -- themes of family and manhood, seasoned with liberal doses of cars, guns, music, sex, bars, fashion, and more than a few slices of social commentary.

This book is the sequel to The Cut, which introduced ex-Marine, current private eye/problem solver Spero Lucas. He came back home from service the Middle East without a clear plan, but with a lingering thirst for the thrill of action. The book's title is that of a painting he is hired to recover, but also a declaration of the book's main theme: Lucas's id and ego. Ostensibly working in the service of people who need help, he's also working to get his 40% recovery fee, and to test himself.

Here, Lucas is testing himself again a trio of criminals, the leader of whom seduces and then preys on lone women in order to rob them. As in many Pelecanos books, the characters are set into motion, and the pages race by as the inevitable showdown between hero and main villain gets closer and closer. And as in all his work, the violence (and sex) is quite graphic. A few things set this one apart: Lucas's romantic interest is a married woman, and that's an interesting new twist in male/female dynamics for Pelecanos. Also, a good chunk of the story takes place in the Maryland counties south of Washington, D.C., where sensibilities are a little more rural and redneckish.

It's a solid entry, nothing flashy or amazing, but solid.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By David on October 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Amazon's plot description is good. Pelecanos had written over a dozen excellent, gritty crime novels set in D.C.--tense, very well-written books with in-depth, complex characters. The Double and The Cut feature a black Jack Reacher-type superhero, Spero Lucas--like Reacher, ex-military; incredibly irresistible to women; with strong vigilante tendencies and great fighting skills. The only interesting detail is that he is the adopted black son of Greek parents. Unlike recent Reacher books, it is clear from the beginning who the bag guys are and they are mediocre criminals--a ladies' man who steals from his lovers and an internet scammer.

There are no surprises in this book and nothing compelling. The book moves along very quickly, with more sex than action and more action (and many more musical and local landmark references) than detection. It is fine, but forgettable.

Without giving spoilers, you know from the beginning what will happen, Pelecanos is going for the gold here--not a gold medal for writing--which is very capable of--but the gold coins which come from action superheroes.
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