Drama City by George Pelecanos

(No Series)

Lorenzo Brown just wants to stay straight. After eight years in prison on a drug charge, he's come "uptown"-back to the Washington, DC neighborhood where he grew up, where his old cohorts still work their corners and their angles, trying to get ahead and stay alive. But Lorenzo's had enough of the life: Now he has a job as a Humane Society officer, policing animal abusers and protecting the abused. In the dangerous streets he used to menace, Lorenzo plays a part in maintain- ing order-and it's a role reversal some of his former friends don't appreciate. Rachel Lopez, Lorenzo's parole officer, tries to help him, even as she battles her own demons and excesses. Trying to stay one step ahead of her troubled past is a daily struggle. It looks like they both might make it, until a malevolent young killer, working for the powerful local drug boss, changes everything with one violent act. Now Lorenzo finds himself caught between the light and dark sides of the street, struggling to stay legit-or throw everything away to exact revenge.

Drama City takes the reader through the daily lives of both of two main characters (Lorenzo and his partner Mark), creating an interesting story that is believable and realistic.  When something tragic happens that could cause Lorenzo to undo his oath that insists he stay on the good side of things, will he be able to resist the temptation? What is the right thing for him to do after all?

Lorenzo is a righteous character, if not a big plain sometimes. Mark is funny and a good supporting piece. The trials he goes through as a Humane Officer are intriguing (but depressing) in a realistic way. The patrol officer, Rachel Lopez, is one of the good ones, believing that some people really can transform their lives for the better. But while during the day she has her head on her shoulders, at night is a much different story. 

George Pelecano's story is one of hope, inspiration and survival. His style is easy to digest, his point comes across clearly without sounding preachy and his characterization skills are strong.

On the negative side, the novel could have used some tightening in pace and tension, with more flavor added to Lorenzo's life (present and past.)  Overall, though, it's an enjoyable read that is thought-provoking, emotionally gripping and well-written.  

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