February 29, 2008

Book Review: Drama City by George Pelecanos


If you take some elements of the tale Romeo and Juliet and set it in the contemporary urban setting of Washington, DC, you get Drama City. Lorenzo Brown is a reformed drug dealer out on parole, trying to make a new life for himself. His current job is to investigate dogs that may be mistreated or receiving negligent care. He does this job with a sense of purpose, righting the wrongs of his fellow man toward animals. We see Lorenzo as a gentle soul with nerves of steel. He is tough when he needs to be tough, retaining the street smarts he attained at the hands of his former "boy," Nigel.

Rachel Lopez is Lorenzo's parole officer, a job she does with an equal amount of purpose and kindness. She is not easy with her offenders, but she treats them with respect. Most of them respect her right back. By night, Rachel goes out drinking in the bars, initiating one night stands that give her temporary satisfaction. By day, she works her job and attends addict support groups.

We travel around the streets with Lorenzo and Rachel in alternating chapters. All seems well until a member of Nigel's street gang makes an error of judgment and unknowingly starts a turf war. The turf war will test Lorenzo's resolve to stay away from the people and life of his past. Ms. Lopez gets swept up in the madness, as well. Can these two lost souls, trying to escape from their past, find a way to heal in Drama City?


I loved this book. The author uses his two protagonists as duel heroes, working to gentle dogs and reformed criminals. The criminals and dogs are subtly and sometimes not so subtly compared to one another. Both creatures are trying to cope with life in the only way they know how. Be warned, this is not a book for the faint of heart. The language is raw and gritty.

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