Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos (2006)

After Dr. M read The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos (2006) and liked it so much, I moved it up near the top of my reading pile, and I'm very glad I did.

The Night Gardener focuses on the life and career of Gus Ramone, a DC homicide detective. Early in his career, when he was still a regular cop, a serial killer took the lives of three young people and left their bodies in various community gardens in the city. Each of the victims had a first name that was a palindrome, and the media dubbed the murderer The Palindrome Killer, but inside the department everyone called him the Night Gardener. Gus was harnessed with a partner that he didn't get along with (Dan "Doc" Holiday) and the two of them admired the work of an older homicide detective on the case, T.C. Cook.

Twenty years later, Gus is a detective, Holiday is off the force (due to an investigation that Gus headed in his time at Internal Affairs), and Cook is long retired. And then another boy is found dead in a community garden. And his name is Asa.

The mystery part of the book revolves around this killing, but the core of the book is Gus and his family, Holiday and his solitude, and the city itself. More than just a "whodunnit," The Night Gardener gets deep into its characters, paints a three-dimensional world, gives us a police procedural that rings very true, and explores issues of race with a subtlety and depth that is unusual in a genre novel.

Occasionally Pelecanos falters and has one of his characters spout a diatribe or get up on a soapbox for awhile, but if you can set these rare missteps aside, you will have a very nice reading experience ahead of you when you pick up The Night Gardener.

You may know Pelecanos as a writer and producer on that little TV show that everyone was so ape shit over a few years ago called The Wire. I swear we are going to watch it sometime, but we tend to run 5-10 years behind the mainstream when it comes to television watching. We haven't even watched any of The Sopranos yet. But, I know there are tons of you out there that love The Wire in a serious way, and all of you should go out and get yourself some George Pelecanos novels.

No comments: