What It Was
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Reagan Arthur / Back Bay Books
January 23, 2012
Tight, gripping and utterly unputdownable, George Pelecanos’ latest novel set in Washington DC, What It Was, is everything you’d expect from the co-creator of The Wire and more.
Washington, D.C., 1972. Derek Strange has left the police department and set up shop as a private investigator. His former partner, Frank "Hound Dog" Vaughn, is still on the force. When a young woman comes to Strange asking for his help recovering a cheap ring she claims has sentimental value, the case leads him onto Vaughn's turf, where a local drug addict's been murdered, shot point-blank in his apartment. Soon both men are on the trail of a ruthless killer: Red Fury, so called for his looks and the car his girlfriend drives, but a name that fits his personality all too well. Red Fury doesn't have a retirement plan, as Vaughn points out - he doesn't care who he has to cross, or kill, to get what he wants. As the violence escalates and the stakes get higher, Strange and Vaughn know the only way to catch their man is to do it their own way.
Dripping with detail so that the reader is immediately sent back forty years, What It Was starts off at lightening pace then keeps on shifting through the gears. This is because the dialogue is cut back to the bone and keeps rolling through the pages like a tidal wave of natural beauty,
Superb too are the characters, as they take on and leave behind different masks and so expose the vulnerability and steely determination that lies beneath of each.
A brilliant, captivating and enthralling read, What It Was - despite its violent undercurrent – is a thing of sheer beauty.
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