Friday, September 25, 2009

review: the night gardener by george pelecanos

Twenty years after The Night Gardener killings, another teen dies in a manner that fits the profile. This time the victim is an acquaintance of the son of one of the cops charged with the investigation. Though the initial killings went unsolved, Gus Ramone is determined to solve this one even if it means bending the rules.

The first chapter takes place in 1985 and serves to introduce the three men who will take lead roles in the investigation twenty years later. Over the course of the book, Pelecanos reveals the source of the animosity Doc Holiday feels for Gus Ramone. It may not exactly be warranted, but it led them to the uneasy alliance they’ve formed in order to solve the murders. The revelation also allows the reader to know what it must do to Ramone when he elects to compromise the investigation in order to protect some of the people involved.

The dialogue and descriptions are graphic at times, but the grittiness of the language rings authentic for the situation. Asa’s death, which doesn’t happen until a few chapters in, is at the forefront of the book, but there are a number of side plots. These make sense because cops would definitely be investigating more than one case, especially in a major city like Washington, DC. Pelecanos shows his TV series experience by having many of those side plots weave into the main one.


  1. Sounds like a good read but I just wonder if those side plots end up distracting readers' attention from the main story.

  2. I do find it distracting with some books (see The Brutal Telling), but not with this one.