This might just be Pelecanos’s best work to date. Which when I look back at his books that is a big call but one I am more than willing to make because George Pelecanos is carving out something pretty special with Spero Lucas.
We first met Spero in 2011’s The Cut; a returned serviceman who is looking to make up for lost time as well as recapture some of the experiences he had overseas. Spero is also adopted. He’s been raised by Greek-American parents and Pelecanos is deliberately vague about his race. But race isn’t a dominating issue in either of the novels, not to say it isn’t there, it is set in modern-day America, but the colour of Spero’s skin doesn’t define him as character. The decisions he makes, the influence and bearing his friends and family have on him, the experiences he has lived through make Spero who he is and is why one of the reasons this series is such an accomplishment,
Another reason The Double is so good is that it works so well as conventional crime thriller. The plot is constantly moving, there is plenty of action and tension, both physically and emotionally. And the good guy and the bad guy are clearly defined but there is plenty of grey to smudge them up too.
Spero is still running his one-man, private investigation business. He takes casework from a defense attorney and cash jobs on the side. The balance of each suits Spero giving him flexible hours and spending money. One of these cash jobs is the retrieval of a stolen painting. A woman has been scammed and robbed in a very callous fashion and hires Spero to get her property back. But the manner in which Spero pursues the job will lead him down a very dark path, one he may not be able to walk back from.
But there is also so much more going on beneath this storyline. Like The Cut Pelecanos again examines the lives of America’s most recent military veterans, how they are adapting to life back home and how home is adapting to them. Pelecanos’s most regular character, the city of Washington DC, as always plays an important role. This time one of change and renewal and a sense of loss that it can bring. But the moral, emotional and physical crossroad that Spero finds himself in is the core of this gripping narrative and again demonstrates that pigeonholing George Pelecanos as just a crime writer is a huge mistake.