From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In yet another gem of urban noir, bestseller Pelecanos (The Night Gardener
) explores the possibility of making the turnaround, of starting over and building a new life, regardless of the past. One summer day in 1972, three teenage white boys—Alex Pappas and his friends Billy Cachoris and Pete Whitten—drive into a poor Washington, D.C., neighborhood, high on booze and weed, looking for trouble. They confront three young black men, Billy winds up dead and Alex badly beaten. In 2007, Alex runs the family coffee shop, as did his father, and grieves for his son, recently killed in Iraq. Then, one of the black survivors of the incident contacts Alex, opening a door that may finally put the trauma of the past to rest. At the same time, another survivor, the man who beat Alex, has gotten out of prison and has extortion on his mind. The result is a beautifully written and thought-provoking novel of crime, friendship, aging and redemption. (Aug.)
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While some may see shades of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities
in Pelecanos’s plot—both deal with the after effects of a racially charged incident in the inner city—in reality they have little in common. Critics all commended Pelecanos’s ethos and his focus on what it means to be a man in modern America, rich and poor and white and black. Some praised the experience he gained writing for the HBO series The Wire
, which focused on the problems of people a lot like those in The Turnaround
. There was the occasional hint that the repeated focus on What It Means to Be a Man bordered on annoying, but if anyone can use the mystery novel as a vehicle for introspection and spiritual longing, it’s Pelecanos.
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