The Night Gardener By George Pelecanos
Reviewed By Nick Quantrill
(Available 10th August)
The 14th novel from George Pelecanos, The Night Gardener sees him weave an ambitious story that aims to lift him up and beyond the conventions of the crime-fiction genre. Pelecanos has never flinched away from tackling difficult social issues, and his remit here is to take a broad look at how crime touches the lives of those outside of its direct consequences, and examine how such characters deal with the harsh circumstances forced upon them.
The Night Gardener is inspired by a series of unsolved teenage murders in Pelecanos's home city of Washington, D.C. Using this is a starting point, Pelecanos's tale starts at the scene of the last these unsolved murders from twenty years ago, with the police, led by star homicide detective, Sergeant T.C. Cook, struggling to bring the killer to justice.
Seemingly, the only link between the cases is that all the victims' names are spelt the same backwards as they are forwards.
Fast forward twenty years and the two junior cops guarding that last crime-scene, Gus Ramone and Dan Holiday, have taken widely divergent paths. Ramone is a respected homicide detective with a solid career record and family, while Holiday has been drummed out of the police force after an internal investigation led by his one time colleague.
Holiday now scratches a living chauffeuring clients to and from the local airport, but stumbles upon the dead body of teenager Asa Johnson in a community garden. Realising the importance of what he's discovered, Holiday is once again drawn into contact with Ramone and Cook.
With the discovery that the dead teenager is his son's friend, Ramone is sent on a personal journey that forces him to consider just how important his family is to him and the arbitrary nature of violence, while broken detectives Holiday and Cook sense the opportunity to make amends for previous failings.
As ever, Pelecanos's dialogue is razor-sharp and rolls off his characters' tongues. The broad sweep of this book, both in the sense of time and theme, allows him to go far beyond presenting a mechanical murder investigation. Pelecanos's natural empathy and understanding of his characters, and the way they interact within the city, combines to lift Pelecanos ahead of the crime-fiction pack. Put simply, his hard-hitting but warm prose means this is crime-fiction writing at its very best.
Reviews, Humber Mouth 2006 - Friday 30th June 2006 -
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Here is a flavour of it! It's not verbatim but from notes so any errors are my own!
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