This might just be George Pelecanos’s best work to date.

9781409114604Review – The Double by George Pelecanos

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.

Buy the book here…

Player Profile: Maria Takolander, author of The Double

takolander-blog-author-photo-by-nicholas-walton-healeyMaria Takolander, author of The Double

Tell us about your latest creation:

The Double is a book of short stories. The stories range in their subject matter from rural Australia to northern Europe and beyond, and from the dark past of the Soviet era to a terrifying vision of the near future. The stories are bold and original, unnerving and unforgettable.

9781922079763Where are you from / where do you call home?:

I am the only Australian-born member of my family. My parents and my sister were born in Finland, and then migrated to Melbourne. I now call Geelong home.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

I always wanted to be a writer. I think it had something to do with learning English as a second language when I was very young, and feeling like an outsider in Australia for quite a long time. As a result, language and the world never seemed ‘given’. Writing gave me the opportunity to ‘get to know’ language
and the world better.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

The Double! I worked on it very intensively, and I had an excellent publisher supporting me.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

I’m not fussy about where I write. I write wherever I can–at the kitchen table, in the train, at my daughter’s desk. All I need is my laptop and some time. Quiet, of course, also helps.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

I love the poetry and prose of Jorge Luis Borges  for its thrilling ideas, cool irony and lavish language. His writing reminds me that it’s exciting to be alive in a world that we don’t understand but that offers experiences of such intellectual and emotional intensity. JM Coetzee’s work is also brilliant. His writing evokes the suffering and complexity that unavoidably comes with living.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

I’ll single out Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Chair. It was so wholesome and otherworldly, and I loved the idea of a magical escape. I think the book also intuitively represented for me the power of books more generally to facilitate
mesmerising flights of fancy.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

Feeling like an outsider, I have always strongly identified with Gregor Samsa! In more romantic moments, I saw myself as Jane Eyre.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

I play with my young son, who loves books and imaginative play. Who wants to live solely in this world, when you can also inhabit so many others?

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

I love Finnish comfort foods and drinks, so I’d say Karelian pasties and milk.

Who is your hero? Why?:

My mum. She is an incredible survivor. Her family were exiled from their homes during the Finno-Russian war during the Second World War, and they endured significant hardship and privation. Nevertheless, my mother is the most loving and joyful person I know.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

Finding readers for books, which are about probing the surface of things, in a society that’s increasingly content with surfaces.