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Chris High reviews ''The Night Gardener' by George Pelecanos on


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Chris High reviews  the George Pelecanos novel: The Night Gardener


George Pelecanos

The Night Gardener
Publisher: Orion
ISBN: 0-75287-541-8
24th August, 2006

Front cover of the book by George Pelecanos: The Night Gardener

Written by

George Pelecanos, without doubt, is one of crime fiction’s finest exponents, revered by readers and writers alike. With his latest novel, The Night Gardener, it is not difficult to understand why. Packed with gritty realism and a straightforward sense of streetwise credibility, Pelecanos has delivered a stylish book of integrity and moral undertone that never seeks to lecture.


They never found the killer. All they knew, back in the winter of 1985, was that someone was taking teenagers, killing them and leaving their abused bodies in public parks. Three victims in all, with no link between them except a oddity of their names. They read the same back-to-front - Otto, Ava and lastly Eve. A lot has happened in the twenty years since. Detectives Gus Ramone and Dan Holiday - two of the leads on the case - have pursued very different paths. Gus has climbed to the heights of Detective Sergeant and built himself a reputation as a very good cop, whilst Dan has been drummed out of the force - his sleaze finally getting too much for his superiors. However, their paths cross again. A boy named Asa - a close friend of Gus's teenage son - has been found in the public park, his skull shattered by gunfire. Now it seems that both men are once again in the path of this disturbed serial killer.

Dark and brooding in places and yet lit by significant bursts of sun, George Pelecanos clearly is an author who understands the concept of balance. The pace of the novel, whilst never blistering, is constant and carries the plotline along with enough diligence and cares to maintain the book’s tension.

In Holiday and Ramone, the writer has created two characters that, though morally opposite, fit together like wine and cheese to develop a rapport so utterly convincing and deeply satisfying, its like watching two old friends get together for the first time in years. As is the case with the equally as strong peripheral characters such as T C Cook, Ramone’s wife, Regina, and Diego, Ramone’s troubled son. All of which is underpinned with credible, lively dialogue, satisfying subplots and descriptive prose that seep from the page and into the reader’s subconscious like the scent of fresh bread at the end of a long day.

Does the story have any weaknesses? Not really. Perhaps Ramone as an individual could be a little lighter and perhaps his partner, Rhonda, could be a little less “right” all the time, but these are very minor quibbles indeed.

This is my first George Pelecanos experience and on the strength of The Night Gardener, it certainly will not be the last.

Order this book online - Linghams Booksellers


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