George Pelecanos strays away from his Derek Strange / Terry Quinn mystery novels and detective series (Soul Circus, Hell To Pay) but stays in his familiar territory of Washington DC in Drama City, a novel about the human soul and choices. Lorenzo Brown is an ex-con working for the Humane Law Enforcement animal protection people. Rachel Lopez is his parole officer and friend, a wounded woman who lives on the wild side that will probably catch up to her some day. Eagle-eyed readers will see a cameo by Derek Strange early on in the novel.

Drama City is definitely a page-turner though not a mystery or thriller per se. Pelecanos slowly sets up the conflict but he immediately interests the reader in what is happening to the Lorenzo Brown and Rachel Lopez characters while hinting at what is to come. This novel also keeps the reader’s interest because the author lets you in on the day to day grind of being a PO, working as a dog catcher, staying on the straight and narrow. Pelecanos also throws in a lot of background information that is fun to learn and makes all of these daily events leading up to the main event interesting and human. Even some of the secondary and dark characters have their redeeming qualities. Rachel Lopez is a bit undefined, painted in broad, sometimes easy strokes, but Lorenzo clearly stands out as a character and is a likeable ex-con trying his best to stay on the straight and narrow.

Things come to a head when Lorenzo and Rachel get caught in the crossfire of some drug dealer related violence. This is where George Pelecanos’ purpose becomes clear. Drama City is a novel about choices people make, their repercussions, and how better choices can change things.

Drama City by George Pelecanos is a good, easy read, though not the usual mystery novel Pelecanos fans have come to expect. He does name drop the titles of way too many songs the various characters are listening to but it is one of those quirks that can easily be overlooked.

Drama City
George Pelecanos
Warner Books 2006
320 pages

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