Pelecanos takes a break from the continuing sagas of DC cop Derek Strange (Hard Revolution, 2003, etc.) and DC private eye Nick Stefanos (Shame the Devil, 2000, etc.) for an equally unsparing stand-alone tale of two cops who aren’t quite cops.
Lorenzo Brown, released from prison after eight years for selling drugs and refusing to rat out his friend and colleague Nigel Johnson, patrols the mean streets of Washington on behalf of the Humane Society; Rachel Lopez is the parole officer who approvingly watches over his attempts to stay on the straight and narrow. By day, Lorenzo, who’s no saint, but a man fighting to rise above his hellish past, hands out citations for animal abuse, impounds mistreated and often dangerous dogs (“You all right” is his gentle mantra to his canine clients), and does what he can to ease the last days of animals who’ve become literally irredeemable. By night, Rachel, frustrated beyond endurance by her inability to control her human clients or the system she works for, changes into come-hither lingerie and trolls hotel bars for men who won’t get out of hand with her. All goes well, more or less, even though the usual richly detailed network of drug buys, dogfights, and sweetheart deals between the Law and the lawless is festering in the background—until one of Nigel’s knucklehead enforcers makes a tiny little mistake concerning turf boundaries, touching off a cycle of violence that will sweep though the neighborhood with shocking swiftness and leave both Lorenzo and Rachel scarred.
The dog-eat-dog metaphor, borrowed perhaps from the film Amores Perros, provides a brutal, tender new way for Pelecanos to get at his great subject: the miraculous survival of lilies among the toxic weeds of the Nation’s Capital.