Marcus Clay and Dimitri Karras want very much to mind their own business, but that’s not the way their karmas crumble, as Pelecanos makes clear in this rousing, raunchy sequel to King Suckerman (1997). The business these two friends want to mind is a small but growing retail record operation—four stores in and around Washington, D.C (actually, it’s Clay’s business, and Karras, still flush with a legacy from his mother, is content to work for his longtime friend). It’s the in-town store that’s giving them headaches. Located at the epicenter of D.C.’s cocaine ghetto, it looks out onto a vista fraught with mean-street nastiness, some of which is downright dangerous even just to witness. On a blustery winter night, a case in point involves the pilfering of a pillowcase full of money scheduled for delivery to Tyrell Cleveland, the area’s CEO of drug enterprises. This multitalented leader of the new hedonists is as heartless as he is entrepreneurial. To mess with him is to invite serious hurt, leading as often as not to shortness of life, terms of doing business that conditions Clay and Karras can accept as sufficient deterrent to their getting involved. On the other hand, two 12-year-old kids have just been gunned down by Cleveland cohorts, and neither Clay nor Karras can happily accept that—doing so is neither in their genes nor in those bothersome karmas, and so the stage is set for show-downs and shoot-outs. You can see them coming a mile away, but it’s terrifically satisfying to watch how it all works out. A cast—mostly black—that’s treated painstakingly, so even the bad guys have dimension and believability (the good guys have character and dignity). Still, the violence-averse should probably give a pass to this otherwise almost compulsively readable entertainer.