Clinton-era Washington, D.C., provides the squalid, menacing backdrop for this crisp, crafty and sharply observed debut by a seasoned reporter.
As the curtain’s about to fall on the 20th century, Sully Carter, a one-time war correspondent weighed down with physical and psychological scars, finds himself working the crime beat in Washington, D.C., at a time when criminal behavior is all but taken for granted at opposite ends of the sociopolitical spectrum. For all of Sully’s battle-hardened professionalism, his bosses don’t think he’s quite stable—or sober—enough to cover the murder of a teenage girl near a convenience store, especially since the victim is the daughter of a high-profile federal judge with whom Sully’s had (let’s say) negative history. Nevertheless, Sully works as if he's in a war zone and eventually connects this murder with a series of cold cases involving dead and missing young women in the same at-risk neighborhood. Tucker, a 25-year newspaper veteran who’s spent most of his career at the Washington Post, writes with rueful authority and caustic familiarity about the District’s criminal and working classes as well as the dreary anxiety of working for a fin-de-siècle big-city newspaper. Along with an ear for inner-city argot almost as finely tuned as those of Elmore Leonard and fellow D.C. crime writer George Pelacanos, Tucker has a knack for ingenious plotting that jolts his narrative into unexpected directions. The shocks resound with acrid, illuminating insights into the District’s nettlesome intersections of race and class at the hinge of the millennium.
Rich yet taut description, edgy storytelling, rock-and-rolling dialogue, and a deeply flawed but compelling hero add up to a luminous first novel.