Penzler Pick, February 2000
: Just as Robert B. Parker and Dennis Lehane have made Boston their own and Los Angeles has been the distinct province of a lineage leading from Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald to Michael Connelly and Robert Crais, so is George Pelecanos the storyteller who's put Washington, D.C., on the noir map. Once considered "the best-kept secret in crime fiction" by his peers, he is now fast leaving behind those days of strictly word-of-mouth fame and cult status.
Telling it like he sees it, and looking fearlessly into those dark, forgotten alleyways that lay too far beyond the corridors of power to make it into any guidebooks, Pelecanos conjures up a gritty, ghostly Washington of working-class neighborhoods and aging suburbs and shoots it through with chillingly unpredictable menace. Most Washington natives probably wouldn't recognize the place--but they couldn't stop trying either, knowing that they've at least glimpsed (out of the corners of their eyes) those environs where a Pelecanos character is most at home.
In Shame the Devil, we find a society of grieving men and women connected by loss, betrayal, the need for revenge, and the shadowy presence of evil. As in other Pelecanos tales, the heroes are not easily identified, love is a coming together of wounded souls, and answers are found where least expected. In the aftermath of a botched armed robbery, a fair number of lives have been thrown into a downward spiral. The problems, however, come on faster and with more fury once the status quo sustaining the survivors has been breached by an ill-wishing and unwanted addition to their little group.
Here are two favorite moments. In one, protagonist Dimitri Karras asks the name of a fellow bar patron. Hearing that he's called Happy, Karras comments that he doesn't look too happy. The answer: "He's pacing himself." The other: we hear the thoughts of the sociopathic villain: "Some believed that incarceration was a mark of failure, but Frank disagreed. Prison was an essential element of any career criminal's education."
With Shame the Devil, Pelecanos solidifies his position among the elite of the brilliant coterie of young noir writers who are creating the emerging classics of the genre. --Otto Penzler
From Publishers Weekly
When the shooting stops on a blistering summer day at May's Pizza Parlor in Washington, D.C., in 1995, five people lie dead, a policeman is left crippled and robber Frank Farrow speeds off with his loot and not a trace of regret. But Farrow, the main villain in Pelecanos's fine new addition to his hard-boiled lineup, still isn't satisfied. He wants to return to finish off the injured cop, who killed Farrow's brother during the shoot-out. Farrow doesn't anticipate, however, the burning desire for revenge harbored by the family and friends of those butchered in the notorious pizza bloodbath. Chief among them is 50-ish Dimitri Karras, whose five-year-old son died when he was mowed down by the getaway vehicle Farrow was driving. Now, three years later, Karras is just getting his life back together, much like the other survivors, all of whom meet regularly to share their grief and soothe their torment. By chance, Karras teams up with Nick Stephanos, a freelance investigator who finds out Farrow is back in town to exact his twisted vengeance. Stephanos tries to dissuade Karras from tracking down Farrow, but even he understands the urge for retaliation. Karras and Stephanos, who have starred in several of Pelecanos's earlier books (King Suckerman; The Sweet Forever), deepen considerably as characters in this hard-driving story of heartache, Stephanos's adjustment to the new-found maturity of middle age and Dmitri's search for some small relief in revenge. Set against a backdrop of greasy-spoon diners, church basements, dive bars and sparsely furnished apartments, the narrative is unsettlingly harsh yet captivatingly tender, the gritty back-and-forth of everyday urban life vividly etched. 11-city author tour. (Jan.)
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