The Double By George Pelecanos features Washington D.C. private investigator and Iraq War veteran Spero Lucas (available October 8, 2013).
Spero Lucas returns and he’s a conflicted man. He’s a quiet man. But he’s a man of certain principles. One of those is that if he finds something valuable for you, he gets forty percent. Another is that each job is a job, not a vendetta and not a mission. Just a job. Well, at least in theory.
Lucas. is a returning vet, refreshingly, doesn’t suffer from a violent or haunting form of PTSD. He doesn’t have night terrors or hair trigger flashbacks.
“Your bike’s a little small for me,” said Dupree, cutting into a medium-rare New York strip. “Like those shorts you gave me.”
“You’ll sleep well tonight.”
“How about you?” said Dupree. “How do you sleep?”
“Fine.” said Lucas.
“I don’t have a problem with that, either. You believe everything you read, all of us vets wake up in the middle of the night in a full sweat. But I never have nightmares, Luke.”
“So you’re normal, whatever that is. You’re saying the war did nothing to you.”
That doesn’t mean he’s come back the way he went and it doesn’t mean he isn’t still finding the balance between right and wrong.
The first chapter opens with Lucas and an attorney bantering over clothes and music. They also discuss Lucas doing some work on the case of an accused murderer who may or may not have done it.
“Edwina had been missing for a week. Once the police actively began to look into her disappearance, Edwina’s mother pointed them in the direction of her lover. Bates was a multiple offender who’d been having an off-an-on extramarital relationship with Edwina for years.”
“Both of them were married?”
“Bates was married. Edwina was single.”
“How’d the police find Edwina?”
“Bates led them to her in a roundabout way. He was in the High Intensity Supervision Program, run by Pre-trial Services.”
Later, he goes for a drink and gets hired for a slightly different kind of job.
“I’m not leg breaker.”
“This is in your wheelhouse. He stole something from her, and she’d like to have it back. She suspects it wasn’t the first time he took her off. But she can’t prove it. The police won’t do her any good. She needs some private help.”
“What’d this gentleman take?”
A painting. That’s all I know. But I think he stole a lot more from her than that.”
“Emotionally, you mean.”
“You’ll get it when you meet her.”
Both start out as just business. Lucas isn’t invested in setting the accused murderer free. The guy’s not a loved one or trusted neighbor like so many novels. It’s just a job. Same with the painting. Find it and get it back. Get paid. Even so, one of these cases will push him to the edge of his humanity.
Lucas holstered the Colt in the small of his back and dropped his .38 in the pocket of his Dickies. He searched the living room floor and found his tooth, and pocketed that as well. There was nothing else he could do. From the kitchen’s refrigerator he liberated a plastic bottle of water, drank half of it down, refilled it with tap water, and walked from the house.
He entered the woods, short of breath and in pain, and slowly navigated his way back to his Jeep.
The structure of this book is a little more disjointed than a traditional mystery, but it comes across as more realistic. Modern investigators generally have more than one case at a time—at least those who hope to stay in business—and Lucas works on two during the course of the book. He also goes biking and kayaking, visits with family and veteran friends, and gets himself involved with a woman who knows far more about what she wants than he does.
“You like the wine?”
“I’ve got another bottle in my room.”
“You have a room here?”
“Uh-huh. Why don’t we go upstairs?”
Lucas finished the wine in his glass. His trousers were tight, and he could feel his heart in his chest. He reached for his wallet, but she said, “No.” She paid the bartender in cash. Tan line on her ring finger, and she wasn’t leaving a paper trail.
Charlottte Rivers was a bundle of dynamite in a dress, and funny. She was also married. For now, Lucas didn’t care.
Lucas is a hard character to get a feel for. He holds a lot back—except when he’s with Charlotte. Something about her makes him spill more of himself than he shares even with old friends and family. One thing he does share with family is a love of music and a sense of justice. It’s that last one Lucas and his brother bond over most often. Both want to see the cold case murder of a teenage girl from the brother’s school solved, though maybe for different reasons. Solved and justice are two different concepts, though, and while one may come the other might be more elusive.
Overall, these cases and people serve to highlight things about a man who seems as happy in the woods as in the city and who, even when in the city, rides around with a thin wall between him and the world. It’s a character study of a man who doesn’t want to be studied. And that, perhaps, makes it all the more interesting.
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Neliza Drew is a tofu-eating teacher and erratic reader with a soft spot for crime fiction. She lives in the heat and humidity of southern Florida with three cats and her adorable hubby. She listens to way too much music, writes often, and spends too much time on Twitter (@nelizadrew).
Read all posts by Neliza Drew on Criminal Element.