George Pelecanos is an old hand at writing crime fiction. The author of 18 novels as well as The Wire for television, his technique is well-honed and popular: clean prose; a detective in the familiar mould (an outsider who cannot help bucking the system); and a satisfying, but not overly brainteasing action.
The Double is Pelecanos’s second outing for Spero Lucas, an Iraqi war veteran turned legal investigator who moonlights for private clients and is asked to recover a painting stolen by a young woman’s former boyfriend “who’s all kind of twisted”. The setting is the streets of Washington, where Pelecanos himself lives, and the city figures prominently as Lucas ponders its gentrification in between the gun waving and quick-fire dialogue.
The book’s strength, but also its weakness, is the multiple plot lines as the story of the psychopath with the painting takes turns to grab the reader’s attention with the defence of a murder trial. It has to, as neither is strong enough to stand alone. Overall, there’s little to offend here, but as a fan of The Wire, I was disappointed.