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Monday, September 26, 2011

"The Cut" by George Pelecanos.

I like to read mysteries and crime fiction.  I've read a lot of books in these categories.  A lot.

Some years ago I developed a hypothesis that if a character was killed in the first three pages of a book (and preferably on the first), then the book would be exciting.  If not, then the story would drag.  In testing this hypothesis over the years it has sometimes been proven wrong, but many times it is correct.  In the case of The Cut the hypothesis proved correct:   No one died on time and the book dragged for me.

The Cut begins with the protagonist, Washington D.C. investigator Spero Lucas, meeting with his occasional employer, criminal defense attorney Tom Peterson.  Peterson is defending a juvenile who is accused of stealing a car.  He hires Lucas to look into the matter and find an angle for the defense.  After Lucas successfully solves that problem, he subsequently accepts a job from the juvenile's dad.  The dad is a large-scale marijuana dealer named Anwan Hawkins.  Hawkins is in jail awaiting trial but still running his business.  He asks Lucas to discover who has been stealing bundles of his product.

While Spero works on the case for Hawkins, he takes time to have dinner with his mom, visit his dad's grave site, talk to a school group about his experiences as a solider in Iraq, hook up with different women, go to bars, etc.  This is not gripping reading material.  It is, as they say, a yawn.  And when the plot does ramp-up a bit later in the book it was too late for me.

The Cut isn't a bad book; it is an adequate way to pass the time on a airplane.  However, I want more than that from mysteries and crime fiction.  Life is short and reading time is limited.  I want books to be absorbing, exciting, transporting.  So with respect to mysteries and crime fiction, I'm going to keep looking for books that have word of a murder in the first three pages.

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